NFC-Equipped iPad Air 2 Sparks Speculation of Future Apple Pay Registers for Small Businesses [Updated]

Earlier this week, a teardown analysis of the iPad Air 2 by iFixit surprisingly revealed the presence of a near field communications (NFC) controller chip that is identical to the one inside the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Apple never advertised the Air 2 as having NFC, and the tablet doesn't support contactless Apple Pay payments, so the inclusion of this chip is somewhat puzzling.

In a new article, Gigaom examines the reasons why Apple might include but not activate this hardware in its tablet device, speculating that the chip may eventually serve to help small businesses process payments.

ipad_air_2_nfc

Portion of iPad Air 2 logic board showing NFC chip boxed in red (Source: iFixit)

In this scenario, the iPad Air 2 would serve as a cash register, potentially using the onboard NFC chip to process wireless Apple Pay payments without any additional hardware. The iPad already is gaining traction with small retailers for use as a mobile register, often in conjunction with a credit card reader and processing service such as Square. But with Apple Pay rolling out as an NFC system for payments, Apple could be eventually be looking to help retailers accept such payments with its hardware.

The key to NFC in the iPad Air 2 is that it affords the possibility of becoming an Apple Pay cash register with no dongle needed. Conceivably, it could expand the number of outlets that take Apple Pay from around 40 to anyone selling stuff who owns the latest iPad. It brings Apple Pay out from the big box store and into farmers’ markets and boutiques.

Such a system would appear to complement rather than replace existing credit card implementations used by small businesses, as Apple Pay currently has only limited distribution through the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and retailers would still need to accept traditional credit and debit cards. Businesses also still require credit card processing arrangements through either a bank or a separate payment service such as Square.

Apple Pay launched earlier this week with only a few hiccups in an otherwise smooth release. Early reports were favorable with most users noting that transactions were processed quickly and easily. Its biggest limitation is distribution, with only large chain launch partners officially accepting the payment service. But as Apple Pay evolves, it will be interesting to see whether the NFC-equipped iPad Air 2 and small businesses will play a bigger role in Apple's mobile payment plans.

Update: As pointed out by a number of readers, the lack of NFC antennas in the iPad Air 2 leaves it unclear how the iPad Air 2 could be used as payment receiver. Forum member GekkePrutser notes that the chip is likely included in the iPad because it houses the secure element where Apple Pay data is stored for the in-app payment feature that is supported on the new iPads.

Related Roundups: Apple Pay, iPad
Buyer's Guide: iPad (Neutral)

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
76 months ago
I think that they included this chip not because of the NFC functionality but for the included Secure Element (http://www.smartcardalliance.org/publications-nfc-frequently-asked-questions/#7) which safely stores the payment keys. This supports Apple's story that you can still use Apple Pay for online transactions, just not in person ones. Thus NFC is not needed but the secure element is.

It's much harder for a malicious app or hacker with hands-on access to the device to pry the keys from the secure element than it is from the normal flash memory, as it's tamper resistant. It's basically a smart card (similar to the "Chip&Pin" EMV chip in a normal payment card), it's also a bit like a TPM module in Windows laptops/tablets.

Also notice that while the iPad includes the NXP65V10 it does not include the iPhone 6's AS3923 NFC booster chip which Apple uses to interface with the antenna. Without this its strength will be too weak to actually use NFC unless there was a fairly large antenna somewhere (and there is no space for that on the casing as it would have to be behind a plastic cover).

So I don't agree with the conclusion in the Gigaom article. While I would have loved to see NFC in the Air 2, I don't think it has the actual NFC functionality and in my opinion that's not why the chip is there.

They could have gone for a Secure Element chip without NFC but it would probably have required making new drivers, which probably wasn't worth the hassle as these chips won't be very expensive to begin with.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
76 months ago
"It brings Apple Pay out from the big box store and into farmers' markets and boutiques."

Incredibly smart idea.....should be interesting to watch. Heck, those small farmers markets and boutiques that use iPads as their POS systems are more advanced than the big-box stores who's systems are still stuck in 1999.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
76 months ago
Didn't iFixit find that there were no NFC antennas, despite the chip being present?
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
76 months ago

There wasn't any NFC antennas in the device from iFixit, but it's unusual to include a chip and not have plans for it. Perhaps it'll be an add on later?


How would an antenna be added later?
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
76 months ago

You guys crack me up. "a few hiccups in an otherwise smooth release". You think people getting duplicate charges is a "hiccup"? Wonder how you'd feel if one of those hiccups was a $5000 item and the duplicate brought you over your credit limit and screwed your card.

Right...smooth with just "a few hiccups".


That was on the payment processor's end, and has been caught & fixed. Chase explicitly said it wasn't anything on apple's end that caused the issue. I have been double charged before when using a regular magnetic card. It's a tiny bit of hassle, but usually easily rectified.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
76 months ago
If true, I think this would help Apple pay adoption significantly for 500 dollars a business can accept NFC payments? Yes please.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Supposed iPhone 12 Display Unit Leaks

Thursday August 6, 2020 8:13 am PDT by
An image supposedly of an iPhone 12 display unit has been shared online by leaker "Twitter user Mr. White". Compared to images of an iPhone 11 Pro display piece, this new unit has a reoriented display connector, reaching up from the bottom of the display, rather than from the left-hand side on iPhone 11 Pro. This may be due to the logic board moving to the other side of the device. A...

8 Third-Party Home Screen Widgets That You Can Try Out Now on iOS 14

Wednesday August 5, 2020 12:56 pm PDT by
One of the biggest new features of iOS 14 is Home Screen widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. The widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. When the iOS 14 beta was first released in June, widgets were limited to Apple's own apps like Calendar and Weather, but several third-party developers have begun to test ...

Apple Seeds iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 Public Beta 4 to Testers

Thursday August 6, 2020 10:05 am PDT by
Apple today seeded new public betas of upcoming iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 updates to its public beta testing group. Today's software releases, which Apple labels as fourth betas to keep them in line with developer betas, are actually the third betas that Apple has provided and they come two weeks after the prior beta releases. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing...

Apple Takes Legal Action Against Small Company With Pear Logo

Saturday August 8, 2020 11:09 am PDT by
Apple is taking legal action against the developers of the app "Prepear" due to its logo, according to iPhone in Canada. Prepear is an app that helps users discover recipes, plan meals, make lists, and arrange grocery deliveries. The app is a spinoff of "Super Healthy Kids," and the founders claim that they are facing litigation from Apple. Apple reportedly takes issue with Prepear's logo, ...

Google's $349 Pixel 4a vs. Apple's $399 iPhone SE

Wednesday August 5, 2020 1:45 pm PDT by
Google this week launched its newest smartphone, the $349 Pixel 4a, a low-cost device that's designed to compete with other affordable devices like Apple's iPhone SE. We picked up one of the new Pixel 4a smartphones and thought we'd check it out to see how it measures up to the iPhone SE, given that the two devices have such similar price points. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel ...

2020 iMac Benchmarks Surface Online [Updated]

Thursday August 6, 2020 7:16 am PDT by
Benchmarks from the new 2020 iMac have today been shared online by Mac Otakara. The Geekbench benchmarks are from the newly-released 27-inch iMac with 3.0GHz Intel Core i5 processor and Radeon Pro 5300 graphics, compared to multiple specs of the previous 2019 iMac. The lowest spec 27-inch i5 iMac from 2020 performs about 20 percent better in multicore than the lowest spec 27-inch i5...

New 27-Inch iMac's Storage Affixed to Logic Board, 4TB and 8TB Configurations Have Expansion Connector

Friday August 7, 2020 7:46 am PDT by
Following a report from German blog iFun.de that claimed the new 27-inch iMac's flash storage is soldered to the logic board, MacRumors has obtained additional information in an internal document for Apple technicians. In the document, Apple says that the flash storage is indeed affixed to the logic board and cannot be removed. However, for the 4TB and 8TB configurations, Apple says that a...

Microsoft's xCloud and Xbox Game Pass Not Coming to iOS Due to Apple's Restrictions [Updated]

Thursday August 6, 2020 1:06 pm PDT by
Microsoft's "Project xCloud" streaming game service that pairs with its Xbox Game Pass won't be available on iPhone and iPad when it launches this September, and Apple's App Store restrictions are to blame. Xbox Game Pass and its accompanying xCloud streaming feature offer access to hundreds of games that can be streamed to mobile devices, and Apple says that because it can't review each...

Apple Announces New 27-Inch iMac With 10th-Gen Processors, Up to 128GB RAM, 1080p Webcam, True Tone, and More

Tuesday August 4, 2020 8:07 am PDT by
Apple today announced a new 27-inch iMac with faster 10th-generation Intel Core processor options, next-generation AMD graphics, up to 128GB of RAM, a higher-resolution 1080p front-facing FaceTime camera, a True Tone display with a nano-texture glass option, a T2 chip, higher fidelity speakers, studio-quality microphones, and more. A breakdown of the new 27-inch iMac's features and specs:10th...

Samsung Launches Galaxy Note 20, Galaxy Z Fold 2, and Galaxy Buds to Compete With Apple's iPhones and AirPods Pro

Wednesday August 5, 2020 10:07 am PDT by
Samsung today held a virtual Galaxy Unpacked event where it unveiled its next-generation smartphones that will compete with Apple's 2020 iPhone lineup, set to come out in the fall. Samsung announced the launch of the Galaxy Note 20 and the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the two newest devices in the Note lineup, and, more notably, the Galaxy Z Fold 2, Samsung's latest foldable smartphone. The...