Apple Advances Toward the iWallet: Is This Good or Bad?

Håkan Dahlström/CC BY 2.0

Apple has received a major Granted Patent for a system that will allow it to link users' iTunes accounts to mobile purchases, reported Forbes. To put it extremely simply, this is Apple's war on cold hard cash: the iWallet. But what does the potential end of paper and metal currency mean for the planet, and just how much better or worse off would be off using iPhones and iPads instead?

The Upsides

A dollar bill has 3 grams of embodied greenhouse gases in it. (A dollar coin has 15 grams, but lasts longer and is recyclable, among other advantages.)

Taking the physical money out of the equation makes that carbon footprint go away. If Apple (and Google, which has a similar experiment going) can head off security questions, it could make carrying around cash at night a whole lot safer. Of course, you can still get mugged for your iPhone.

Also, shopping with your smartphone can make you a more sustainably-minded and informed consumer.

The Downsides

It's not all good. First of all, this is more of what Apple does best: promote and enable consumerism, which provokes existential questions about the green movement, not to mention our economy and society. But that's another discussion.

Assuming that we would buy as much with cash as with an iWallet, e-money comes with its own carbon footprint. However many good green things you can do with them, smartphones and tablets take an enormous toll on the planet through their production. Not to mention the ethical firestorm Apple just rode out over its factories in China.

So?

Apple and Google aren't the only ones attempting to "cash in" on this wave of the future: Square and Intuit already process payments via smartphone. If they all fail, more attempts will likely be made anyway. Like books, money is moving more and more out of our hands and onto our screens.

Ultimately, tacking consumerism, and not its 21st century incarnation, must be the way to go. Kill the snake by cutting off its head.

Tags: Apple Inc | Computing