Apple has been granted a patent for an ecommerce system that would track the status of a smartphone user's credit card balance to target advertising based on what the user could realistically afford.
In its application, granted last week, Apple said the tie-in with a user's credit card balance would be much more targeted and relevant than traditional mobile advertising.
Apple's proposed mobile advertising system - an opt-in service - would only deliver ads for products that have a purchase price "less or equal to the available credit for that user", the company wrote.
"This would be appropriate when presenting, for example, items offered by an online shop which can be ordered immediately," the patent application states.
"The items that the user can currently afford, that is, they have available credit in an amount greater than the purchase price of each item, may be marked with a marker while those the user cannot afford would not be so marked."
It used the example of a pizza company advertising its product through the proposed platform.
"An advertisement provided by advertiser may be “we offer pizza A for $4, pizza B for $6 and pizza C for $8. Click on the pizza to order now.” In accordance with the invention, the advertisement being delivered to the users would be different depending on the available credit for each user," the patent states.
"Thus, when the advertisement is delivered to users having at least $6.00 but less than $8.00 available credit, the advertisement would be “we offer pizza A for $4, and pizza B for $6. Click on the pizza to order now”. Pizza C would not be included in the advertisement to these users since they do not have available credit to pay for it."
When the user clicks on the advertisement, a "premium SMS is sent and a pizza store with a delivery services is informed about the address of the user and about the order", according to the patent.
Apple said the seller would be paid via the system with money from the user's linked account.
Other options were to have the system linked with a PayPal-type service or to set up monthly debit, the patent states.
Apple also said it could create a credit account specifically for the advertising technology, or the system could be linked to an external credit card.
The company presented the possibility of setting a limit on the maximum price for any item that can be purchased on the mobile phone.
"This way, for example, parents or employers could set a maximum limit on the amount of money spent on any one item, for example $10.00, independent of the fact that the user has sufficient credit available," Apple wrote.
Apple's system would include a billing platform for those who respond to the ads and reduced or free "telephone services" to those who agree to be targeted, the patent states.
The proposed ad technology could display products on the user's screen in a manner where affordable items sit on one area of the screen - Apple suggested at the top - and other items out of the user's price range are displayed at the bottom.
Goods would only be selected for the targeted advertising if they were within 90 percent of the phone owner's credit balance, the patent suggests.
It is unclear how the advertising technology would interface with the company's Apple Pay mobile payments service, which debuted in the United States last year and is now also active in the UK.
The patent application runs counter to consistent comments by Apple boss Tim Cook that the company is not interested in selling its customers' data to advertisers.
Cook last year said he was "offended" by businesses that did, and Apple's customers were not its product.
The chief executive indirectly criticised Google and Facebook for disregarding their customers' privacy by relying heavily on income generated by selling advertising to users based on the data they collect.