Apple may shake up the next version of iOS with the introduction of a true mobile wallet, forecasts Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty.
Dubbed a "killer app" by the analyst, the mobile wallet feature would surface as part of iOS 7, which Apple is expected to preview at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June.
Huberty's prediction echoes that of fellow Apple analyst Gene Munster, who also thinks a digital wallet is in Apple's future. However, Munster believes the technology won't surface on iOS devices for another year or two.
Apple got its feet wet in this area last year with the introduction of Passbook. But Passbook is not a true digital wallet that would enable you to pay for items directly through your phone. Instead, Passbook allows you to store digital coupons, which you can sync with a membership card at retailers such as Starbucks to pay for items.
Adding a mobile wallet to iOS and iOS devices would likely, but not necessarily, require support for near-field communications, or NFC.
Munster believes Apple's digital wallet would use a technology other than or in addition to NFC, yet its system would still work with existing mobile payment solutions.
Would a mobile wallet truly be a "killer app," as Huberty dubs it? Apple could certainly use an innovative new feature to drum up interest in iOS 7 and its next iPhone and iPads.
Consumers have been promised that digital wallets would put an end to their reliance on cash and credit cards, enabling them to buy items with just a tap of their smartphone. But mobile payments have yet to fulfill that promise.
Such systems still rely on credit cards to pay for the actual exchange. And mobile payments require support from and cooperation among smartphone vendors, financial firms, retailers, and other industry players -- one reason why the growth has been slow. Consumer concerns over security are in the mix as well.
Still, Apple is a major mobile force with a huge customer base. Its support for a digital wallet could benefit not just the company but the entire mobile payment industry.
What else does Huberty see in her crystal ball for Apple this year?
She believes the company will launch the iPhone 5S and a much-rumored low-cost iPhone in September and a new 9.7-inch iPad and iPad Mini sometime in the quarter that ends in late September. Huberty also sees the potential debut of Apple's Smart TV or iWatch next year.