While new software and services dominated Apple’s recent keynote, the Apple Card – and its simple tactility – deserves attention amidst a digital landscape.
This week, Apple announced its forays into television, news and gaming. As the replacement cycle for new iPhones continues to slow, the company’s pivot towards services marks a shift in the technological landscape. In a break from the design-forward hardware unveilings that typically anchor Apple’s trademark announcements (remember Steve Jobs pulling the first MacBook Air out of an envelope?), there wasn’t a new iPhone, MacBook, iPad, or Apple Watch in sight. Amidst the novel apps and services, however, Apple did reveal a design boasting a satisfying low-tech tactility: the laser-etched titanium Apple Card.
Designed by Apple’s in-house team, the credit card embodies the company’s commitment to radical minimalism and high-quality finishes. The card’s physical presence is a far cry from the plastic credit cards that dominate the market. Instead, the titanium finish reflects the materiality of invitation-only credit cards — notably American Express’s Centurion Card – that are typically issued only to a small base of high-spending customers.
Apple’s video shows a card cut from a single piece of titanium, with a milling machine used to carve out a pocket for the EMV chip. The chip itself features a custom design of six rounded shapes, offering a simplified, aesthetically balanced alternative to the jagged patterns typically found on credit card chips. A light coating gives the card a clean, off-white finish, allowing the laser-etched engravings to stand out against a matte background.
Free of numbers, bevels and extraneous design elements, the card features only the name of the holder and the Apple logo. The cardholder name is spelled out in a rounded version of Apple’s custom-designed San Francisco font, while the engraving for the Apple logo is curved – to glint in the light. On the back, Mastercard and Goldman Sachs logos top a magnetized strip at the bottom. Combining simplicity with attention to detail, the Apple Card offers a stark contrast to the cluttered designs that characterize most bank-issued cards.
Offered in partnership with MasterCard and Goldman Sachs, the new credit card service will become available to US customers this summer. The physical Apple Card is intended primarily as an alternative payment system, to be used in situations where contactless transactions are not accepted. As such, the physical card itself does not support contactless payment, making it something of an anachronism compared to most contemporary cards.
The credit card builds on the Apple Pay interface, which allows contactless purchases by a tap of phone or watch. For cardholders, the existing Apple Play service will be complemented by what Apple touts as industry-leading privacy measures and expense tracking, along with real-time interest payment evaluations and instant cash-back rewards. While potentially valuable, the card’s services represent incremental – and arguably marginal — variants to established industry practices. By contrast, the trillion-dollar technology company’s biggest contribution to the credit card ecosystem may be the luxurious tactility of the object itself.