More Hints that Apple is Working on an NFC Payment System on the Next iPhone
Apple's interest in incorporating Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities into the iPhone has been long rumored. Near Field Communications is short range wireless communication technology (~4 inches) that is used in mobile phones for a variety of applications including mobile payments.
One of the more credible reports about that possibility came from the New York Times in March 2011. The newspaper reported that Apple was interested in incorporating NFC into a future iPhone, but was unable to specify when:
According to two people with knowledge of the inner workings of a coming iteration of the Apple iPhone - although not necessarily the next one - a chip made by Qualcomm for the phone's processor will also include near-field communication technology, known as N.F.C. This technology enables short-range wireless communications between the phone and an N.F.C reader, and can be used to make mobile payments. It is unclear which version of an iPhone this technology would be built into.
The New York Times believed that Apple would offer a solution that would somehow integrate with users' iTunes accounts to offer payments.
Rumors went back and forth about it happening in 2011, but ultimately settled on expectations that we wouldn't see an integrated solution until the 2012 iPhone revision.
A Fast Company interview from last week tried to pin down if Apple was one of Mastercard's future NFC partners, to which the executive seemed to falter, giving an excuse about confidentiality.
"The timeline is always as rapid as it makes sense for consumers," he says. "That's a combination of having a critical mass of the merchants, which is what you're seeing right now, and getting devices into the hands of consumers. I don't know of a handset manufacturer that isn't in process of making sure their stuff is PayPass ready."
So that would include Apple then?
"Um, there are...like I say, [I don't know of] any handset maker out there," McLaughlin says. "Now, when we have discussions with our partners, and they ask us not to disclose them, we don't."
And now, at Macworld, it seems at least one developer told 9to5Mac that they were hearing the same hints from Apple iOS engineers that the company is "heavy into NFC". That developer seemed confident enough to be building an NFC-capable iOS app, even though that functionality is currently requires 3rd party NFC accessories on the iPhone.
Apple has already made a small stride towards convincing users to use their iOS devices and iTunes account for payments. Apple recently introduced a self-checkout system to their Apple Store app that allows customers to purchase items at Apple retail stores using their iTunes account. NFC would further streamline the process and potentially expand it to many other retailers.