Will iPhone Finally Catch Up with NFC Mobile Payment Ability?
Apple's latest version of the iPhone may come equipped with the ability to pay for physical purchases, according to reports. The iPhone 6, widely rumored to be launching at Apple's media event Sept. 9, is reported to come equipped with near-field communication (NFC) technology, allowing users to pay for items by using their smartphone as an electronic wallet.
The media event, announced Thursday with a press invitation bearing only the cryptic phrase "wish we could say more" and the date, is expected to see the company launch two new iPhone models alongside the rumored iTime smart watch. The inclusion of NFC technology, a first for the iPhone, is rumored to be one of the key new features to be headlined at the event.
NFC payment functionality for the iPhone, commonly referred to as "iWallet" in the press, is something Apple has been working on for several months, according to a report in the UK-based Financial Times. The Times reported Dutch chipmaker NXP Semiconductors would be providing the NFC chips for the new models, which would allow users to "pay by touch" using their handsets.
Tap-to-pay technology is far from new, having been available since Nokia first introduced it in 2006. Samsung and LG have also included the functionality on their handsets since 2011. Samsung has highlighted the absence of NFC chips on the iPhone as a key advantage for its Galaxy smartphones. Other technology companies like Google and Square have tried to popularize the technology with their own smartphone apps, but without much success.
However, only half of all U.S. smartphones currently have NFC capabilities, with the iPhone remaining a major holdout to date. Nevertheless, the technology has proved popular in overseas markets like Japan. And in China and some parts of Europe, NFC technology has been integrated with credit cards to allow customers to make small purchases by just tapping their cards on a reader.
Good Timing, Internet of Things Potential
Apple may also get an assist from some fortuitous timing: MasterCard and Visa are both enforcing an October 2015 deadline for retailers to upgrade their card readers from the swipe-and-sign style to the more secure microchip-and-PIN terminals used in Europe. Many such readers are already equipped with NFC capabilities, which could provide Apple with the perfect opportunity to popularize the technology.
Although much of the media focus on the iPhone's rumored NFC chip has focused on the potential for using the device as an electronic wallet, the potential for the technology could be further reaching still. According to statements by NXP, the same chip that allows customers to pay for a latte with their smartphone could also let them control their appliances. If Apple is indeed using NXP's chips, the inclusion of their NFC technology could allow the iPhone 6 to function as a sort of universal remote control for "the Internet of things."
"It will now become possible to use the highly intuitive UI [user interface] on your smartphone to program a washing machine, exchange data with an exercise bike or wristband, and download specific cooking recipes to your microwave oven," NXP said.
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Posted: 2014-09-03 @ 9:59pm PT
I use a Galaxy S5 at the checkout now and use fingerprint PayPal and Google Wallet. iPhone is just getting NFC now. Wow, who's following who in the tech world!