Apple is eyeing yet another way to dabble in the mobile payments market.
Dubbed "Method and system for managing credits via a mobile device," the application published Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office envisions a system whereby mobile users would receive credits or coupons to be stored in their account. Acting as virtual currency, such credits could be used to help pay bills or buy items at a point of purchase.
Apple already offers a digital coupon system through its Passbook app. But the service highlighted in the patent application would take the concept a bit further.
Consumers could score the credits in return for watching advertisements. The credits themselves would be processed through a billing system that keeps track of how they're being used. As such, the invoices for the products or services would be sent directly to the business or advertiser rather than to the user.
As one example, the credits could be applied toward paying off part or all of a cell phone bill, essentially providing subsidized or free mobile phone services, as described in the application:
In this manner, although invoices are not sent to the users, the metered usage is compared with business rules associated with the users and the cost for providing the free or subsidized services to the users is invoiced directly or indirectly from advertisers. Other techniques to provide subsidized or free telephone services to the users are also envisioned. For subsidized telephone services, the users may be responsible for a portion of their usage and thus they would be interested in eliminating unnecessary use of such telephone services.