A new Korean report published this morning is stating that beginning today, 13 Korean commercial banks are launching Bank Wallet, a new Smartphone-based e-wallet application. Major local commercial banks and Korea Financial Telecommunications and Clearings Institute (KFTC) have integrated dispersed financial services including mobile remittance, deposit and withdrawal transactions into one service using an electronic wallet application. The catch is that the smartphones using this application will require an NFC chip. No equivalent technology has been announced. That's good for Samsung and bad for Apple.
The Korea Times states that Korean citizens could download the new application if their Smartphone is signed up under their name and has "a built-in NFC-function."
The Korea Times points out rightfully that "as the financial institutes have jointly commercialized the electronic financial settlement system, the mobile settlement market will be a fierce battle field among the banks, telecommunications service providers and manufactures."
Banks in North America are coming up with their own smartphone e-wallet solutions, and as we pointed out in our February report titled "Could this be the Year that Apple Introduces the iWallet?" – There are a few carrier-block solutions coming to market later this year in North America. So the iWallet market as a whole is going to experience some growing pain as competing solutions emerge.
We noted in our February report that Apple's Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller had stated that he didn't think that it's "clear that NFC is the solution to any current problem." Well Phil, there's a problem in Korea where your largest and fiercest competitor resides. If you want to compete for the iWallet business in their backyard then you're going to have to rethink that stance. The iPhone is going to require an NFC component.
While Apple could announce at some later point in time that they did in fact have a secret agreement with the Korean banks all along, for now at least, it would appear that the Korean banks may have just provided Samsung smartphones and phablets with a leg up over Apple's iPhone in Korea. How Apple intends to respond to this threat in the iPhone 6 later this year is unknown at this time.
On Record, Apple Patent Archives: iWallet and NFC