Report: Apple to add near-field communication tech to next iPhone

Nov 23, 2011
Tech

For a lot of companies operating in the mobile sphere, near-field communication (NFC) is the future. The technology that allows smartphones to interact with other devices when they come in close proximity with one another, is already being leveraged by Google for its Google Wallet service, essentially turning some phones running Google’s Android operating system […]

For a lot of companies operating in the mobile sphere, near-field communication (NFC) is the future. The technology that allows smartphones to interact with other devices when they come in close proximity with one another, is already being leveraged by Google for its Google Wallet service, essentially turning some phones running Google’s Android operating system into credit cards that can be waved at in-store terminals to complete transactions.

Google is one company that has put a lot of support into NFC technology, but up to now, Apple has held back. Apple isn’t generally one to go jumping in with both feet on new technology. Generally, it likes to wait until something is good and tested before it adds it to one of its extremely popular iPhones. But a new report suggests that Apple is looking to adopt NFC tech for the iPhone 5, expected to launch in the summer of 2012.

This isn’t the first we’ve heard of NFC technology making its way into the iPhone 5, which up until the release of the iPhone 4S in October was believed by many to be on its way to shelves before the 2011 holiday season. Apple also received a new patent for an NFC-based transaction technology earlier this month.

The latest report comes from Asian publication DigiTimes, which claims that both Apple and Microsoft are stepping up their commitment to NFC technology with their next waves of smartphone releases.

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As usual, DigiTimes quotes “unnamed sources” among Taiwanese smartphone component manufacturers that are employed by Apple, Microsoft and others to create the internal technology that goes into their devices. These sources claim that NFC penetration in the smartphone market is about to rise dramatically in 2012, going from less than 10 percent of smartphones on the market containing the tech to more than 50 percent in two to three years, as Apple and Microsoft join the party.

Some companies have been holding back using NFC technology, the DigiTimes story notes, but its sources say this isn’t because of issues with the technology itself – just with configuring it to different versions of Google’s Android OS for different manufacturers. Already, Nokia, HTC, Samsung and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion have adopted the technology for their devices.

There also seems to be a clear standard developing in NFC technology, DigiTimes writes, something that Apple looks for before committing to adding tech to its devices. A SIM card-based NFC protocol has won the approval of something like 45 different telecom companies from around the world, among them AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom, China Mobile, China United and Vodafone. So Apple has just about everything it looks for when deciding if a technology is reliable enough to put into an iPhone, plus a competitive incentive – namely, fighting off Google – for doing so.

But a DigiTimes rumor is hardly fact, and those rumors have been proven wrong often enough before. Still, the iPhone 5 is expected to be a big step forward for Apple  in 2012, with a new design and possibly even 4G LTE support. If the company wants to make a big splash, an e-wallet tech to go with the iPhone 5 would help it have that effect come June.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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