APPLE, INC. confirmed plans to release its much-anticipated Tap to Pay feature on the iPhone later this year, giving merchants an alternative to Block, Inc.’s Square technology.

The option will let sellers accept payments through Apple Pay, credit cards and digital wallets without additional hardware, the company said in a statement. The system relies on near field communication, or NFC, to securely connect. Apple’s plan, which was previously reported by Bloomberg, sent shares of Block down as much as 3.2% after it was announced on Tuesday.

“Tap to Pay on iPhone will provide businesses with a secure, private and easy way to accept contactless payments and unlock new checkout experiences,” Jennifer Bailey, vice-president of Apple Pay and Apple Wallet, said in the statement.

Apple has been working on the new feature since around 2020, when it paid about $100 million for a Canadian startup called Mobeewave that developed technology for smartphones to accept payments with the tap of a credit card.

The feature includes technology that will let third-party payment networks adopt the system for their own users. Stripe, Inc. will be the first payment platform to offer the feature to customers, with more coming later this year, Apple said.

“Whether you’re a salesperson at an internet-first retailer or an individual entrepreneur, you can soon accept contactless payments on a device that’s already in your pocket: your iPhone,” Billy Alvarado, Stripe’s chief business officer, said in the statement.

It’s hard to say how much the rollout could affect Square, whose equipment and services are used by many small businesses. Barclays analyst Ramsey El-Assal said on Tuesday that there isn’t an immediate threat. After dipping on Tuesday, Block’s shares mostly recovered to close down less than 1% to $102.29.

“We do not expect the inclusion of Apple’s Tap to Pay will have a material impact on current competitive dynamics,” he said.

The feature also puts the spotlight on a key antitrust argument against the iPhone maker: Apple’s grip on mobile payments. Various payment services have complained to governments for years that the tech giant reserves the iPhone’s NFC chip for its own payment system, Apple Pay. The European Union and other entities have investigated Apple over this practice.

The new service may ease those concerns by allowing outside vendors like Stripe to access the functions. Still, some payment companies are asking for more interoperability. MagicCube, Inc. Chief Executive Officer Sam Shawki, whose company makes similar technology to Apple’s new service, is hopeful he will be able to use the iPhone NFC chip for his own offering.

MagicCube’s service lets third-party apps accept tap-to-pay credit cards. So far, that system only works on Android because of the closed nature of the iPhone’s hardware.

“In payments, open solutions work,” he said. “We’d love if everyone would be open. Can you imagine if you were a merchant and your system would only work with an iPhone or Android?” — Bloomberg