Anyone with iOS 10 will soon be able to use blockchain payments app Circle to send and receive payments directly within Apple’s iMessage app.
Circle for iMessage represents a major step in the evolution of social message payments in the West, similar to what has already happened in China.
Circle for iMessage is available from the App Store. Users updating to iOS 10 will automatically have Circle for iMessage.
Users will be able to send dollars, pound sterling, euro and bitcoin to anyone directly inside of iMessage. They will fund payments and cash out using many banks in the U.S., the U.K., and soon, Europe.
The Circle for iMessage app will allow users to create an account, link a debit card, and send dollars, pounds, euros and bitcoin to any other iMessage or SMS/MMS user.
Users who have iOS 10 will see an interactive app widget to cash out their payment to any bank account or blockchain-compatible digital wallet within the Circle app. Those users can also send payments using their debit card.
Those using Android will get a URL to cash out and send their own payments. They can also onboard into Circle for Android.
Users in markets where Circle does not support the local currency will receive bitcoin. They can cash out their bitcoin to their local bank account and currency using a regional exchange. Meanwhile, Circle continually adds new currencies, having recently added the Chinese yuan.
Circle for iMessage supports Cirle’s vision that money should work the way the Internet works; instant, global, free, open and fun, Neville and Allaire noted. People can share messages, videos and experiences with each other; they can communicate in real-time globally. Neville and Allaire believe money should work the same way.
“Working like the Internet” is not a technical phrase about protocols and networks, however. It means blending with preferred behaviors. On mobile devices, this means messaging.
The new era of mobile app design means many app experiences will be designed within a small number of standard messaging platforms like iMessage and Facebook Messenger.
Chinese companies such as Alipay and Tencent led the way in demonstrating the power of social payments integrated within messaging and commerce.
The West, however, is in the early stages of social payments adoption. Neville and Allaire believe the integration of consumer payment experiences with messaging will define retail finance in the West, just as it has in China, where social and P2P payments are ubiquitous.
When Apple announced it was opening up iMessage in iOS 10 to third-party developers, it was perfect timing, according to Forbes contributor Laura Shin.
Also read: Bitcoin startup Circle raises $60 million for China expansion
After WeChat allowed third-party developers to build apps on its platform, Wechat saw significant growth as it added utilities payments, business services and other services from third-party apps, according to Shin.
Circle is one of several companies using bitcoin for efficiency, low-cost and bypassing the traditional banking system, Shin noted. Circle does not charge users to send money. It makes a small amount of the foreign exchange spread, 0.25% as compared to 3-4% for bank transfers and around 1 to 2% for services like TransferWise and Xoom. Circle could eventually offer products like P2P loans.
Unlike SquareCash, another P2P payments provider launching within iMessage, Circle can transfer money globally, while SquareCash is only available domestically. Circle is also exploring features such as group payments or creating a Circle account within the iMessage app.
Circle launched in the U.K. earlier this year and can “passport” its license to other European countries, a feature the company expects to roll out by the end of the year.
Circle also formed a separate company, Circle China, to support free social payments across currencies.
Images from Shutterstock and Circle.