By far, the stand-out product released at Apple’s services announcement last March was the Apple Card, its upcoming credit card that will integrate into Apple Pay. In the wake of the announcement, some 15 million people watched the ad on YouTube, more than the total number of people who watched the ad for the iPhone XR, Apple’s best-selling iPhone whose ad had been on the streaming site for nearly 6 months.
In a sense, it’s an effort that’s been more than a decade in the making. According to a blog post from Jobs’ top ad consiglieri Ken Segall, Jobs first proposed making the Apple Card back in 2004, during the height of iTunes glory. The plan, at the time, was to offer free music in lieu of cash back or frequent flier miles, then the two main credit card perks.
There was even an advertising campaign, featuring a slew of delightfully retro musical references to artists like Weather Report and Train. Unfortunately, according to Segall’s account, Mastercard wouldn’t give Apple the terms Jobs wanted and the product was shuttered, at least it was until its triumphant resurrection last March.
Will the Apple Card Drop at WWDC?
That is about to change. When it announced the Apple Card in March, the company said it would be released some time in the summer. WWDC would by far make the most sense if this is still the plan. New Apple Card integrations will almost certainly be the focal point of iOS 13. Apple could always host another event later on in the summer, but this would run the risk of clashing with July 4 and other holidays.
Other signs point to an imminent launch for the Apple Card. The last beta update that Apple shipped, the developers beta for iOS 12.4 was so sparse it didn’t even include any bug fixes. Anthony Karcz, a tech contributor at Forbes, speculated that this meant that the 12.4 developers beta contained mostly seed code for the Apple Card.
There’s more evidence that Apple is gearing up to launch the Apple Card. On May 11, the leaker Ben Geskin shared some images of the Apple Card that he claimed had been shared with employees. The images look authentic, except for the part where Geskin edited his name over the alleged employee’s to protect their identity. These images also include packaging collateral, which adds more weight to the idea that a launch is imminent.
Karcz thinks that there’s a chance that Apple could release the Apple Card before WWDC, which would also explain how Geskin was able to get his hands on one. To be sure, Apple does seem to have been embracing the eventless product launch of late. As you may recall, it quietly released a bunch of hardware each morning in the week leading up to the March services announcement. The company also released MacBook on May 21 which didn’t get an event either.
Then again, the MacBooks were widely complained about due to issues with the keyboard. There are some products you roll out quietly, and some where you want to make a splash. The Apple Card definitely seems like it falls into the latter camp.
Should You Get the Apple Card?
The Apple Card isn’t really geared toward rewards junkies, and its reception among the points crowd was pretty lackluster. For purchases where you use the actual credit card, you’ll get just 1 percent cash back which isn’t remarkable (you can easily find cards offering double that). Customers will get two percent cash back when they use Apple Pay, and three percent on Apple products.
On the other hand, other experts anticipate that Apple will cast a pretty wide net in terms of who will qualify (credit cards offering the best perks, by contrast, typically require pretty high credit scores). Apple Pay is pretty prevalent now, the company announced in January that it’s now available in 74 of the U.S.’s largest merchants, meaning depending on how you shop, its cash back could be pretty competitive.
To entice more deep-pocketed users who are likely to be able to get better perks elsewhere, the Apple Card will also offer some privacy-enhancing features. The physical Apple Card won’t actually have a credit card number on it, and instead create and store unique credit card numbers in the iPhone’s Secure Element through Apple Wallet. Apple says this will prevent it from knowing anything about what you do with the Apple Card (though Apple’s payments processor, Goldman Sachs, will.)
The Apple Card will also get some pretty nifty budgeting and spending tracking features, including a feature that lets you optimize your payments to minimize interest. This will likely be front and center during WWDC, assuming that’s when Apple rolls the product out. Budgeting apps have been surprisingly slow to innovate, and the incumbent is still Mint, which was founded in 2006 and is now owned by increasingly loathed TurboTax maker Intuit.
We expect to hear more about the Apple Card by WWDC 2019 at the latest. To get an email alert when the cards first become available (remember, there will be an application process), you can sign up for Apple’s dislist here.