Circle Brings Blockchain Payments to iMessage With iOS 10 Update

Blockchain payments firm Circle has integrated with Apple iMessage as part of its iOS 10 update.

AccessTimeIconSep 13, 2016 at 1:08 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 12:29 p.m. UTC

Blockchain payments firm Circle has integrated with Apple's iMessage, a move that allows users to send payments in dollars, euro, pound sterling and bitcoin through the popular texting platform.

executives said the launch marks the end of preparations that began in June, when Apple announced it would open up iMessage to third-party developers.

"We decided to jump on it," Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire said in an interview. "We had been planning to build out a model for app-less payments using Circle that would work in all the places people communicate and interact."

The confirmation came days after social media leaks and Asia-based media reports hinted that Circle would soon make an announcement.

Allaire and fellow Circle co-founder Sean Neville indicated that making payments available on the "most used app in the world" would help it better navigate the larger transition to becoming a payment platform that not only leverages the bitcoin blockchain, but that could compete against more established payment apps.

Allaire told CoinDesk:

"This is going to be a big part of the future, it’s all tied into the how do we make money work, the way the Internet works. We talk about photos and content and the way we do that is through social messaging, that is the core medium of the Internet for a lot of people."

As a result of the integration, Circle users who have installed the application will be able to access Circle from new icons built into iMessage. Users who don't have Circle installed will also have the option to tap to receive money.

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According to Neville, the payments are instant on the Circle platform, but consumers could still wait days to receive the money in a bank account.

"If you use the app today, if you hold dollars and you sent me euros, I immediately have euros and I can send those euros elsewhere or to non-Circle customers. If I want to cash out into checking account, I'm still subject to my bank," he continued.

The announcements comes a time when Apple’s stance on blockchain and digital currencies remains opaque, as evidenced by a number of recent app store take-downs.

In past weeks, digital currency-focused apps by firms including ShapeShift and Jaxx have reported pressure to remove support for certain currencies.

Android compatibility

In statements, Allaire and Neville also used the announcement to hint at the benefits of technology standards, in this case, the short message service (SMS), which has long served as the platform for mobile communication.

As a result of iMessage's use of this underlying technology, Allaire and Neville said that Android users will be able to receive payment requests via the integration, even if the process has a different user experience.

"One of the things that’s really cool about using iMessage as the container is it's an SMS app, so it allows you to send the messages to any contact that uses any SMS compatible device," Allaire said.

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Allaire and Neville said they see the opening of the iMessage platform as a step by Apple to rival what companies such as Tencent and Alipay have done successfully in China.

Elsewhere, iMessage users can expand the app to full-screen mode, Allaire said, to access and set their preferred funding sources for payments, whether it’s US dollars, bitcoins or pounds, all with low costs.

Allaire emphasized that even on iMessage its policies toward monetizing its platform will remain the same, adding:

"We believe holding and sending data should be free, we don’t charge."

Disclaimer: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Circle.

iPhone image via Shutterstock; Circle photos via Circle


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