updated 07:25 am EST, Tue January 25, 2011
Next iPad and iPhone would make NFC staple feature
Analyst Richard Doherty of the Envisioneering Group claimed unusual access to Apple today with comments that Apple would add NFC (near field communications) to all its mobile devices. Along with the anticipated iPhone 5, the next iPad would get the short-range wireless technology, hardware engineers for both devices reportedly said. While he didn't explain how it would work in earnest, he told Bloomberg it might be used for an iTunes mobile payment system as soon as mid-2011, in sync with the new iPhone's release.
The project if implemented would add a point system or some other form of loyalty program to encourage repeat shopping trips or to refer a friend. Apple supposedly has a prototype payment terminal that would be used to trigger an NFC payment. It could be heavily subsidized or given away for free to spur early adoption.
Speculation has also suggested that Apple could charge higher rates for iAds triggered by NFC, such as getting a movie ad from a poster.
Apple as expected wouldn't comment on the rumor.
Earlier rumors have raised the possibility that Apple may have a strictly practical use for NFC outside of commercial use. The company may use NFC for Mac preference syncing and could let a user port over basic Mac OS X account details just by getting close to a future NFC-equipped Mac. Although not mentioned, Apple mobile devices could also exchange data when close to each other or make an ad hoc local network for multiplayer games.
That Apple is working on NFC is already known as it hired Benjamin Vigier to head up a new Mobile Commerce group as of last year. Its timing and reach are uncertain, but if present in the next iPad it could be ready by April. Apple usually releases new iPhones in late June or July.
Other phone or phone OS makers are known to be getting involved in NFC. Android 2.3 has NFC as a core feature, but 2011 BlackBerrys like the Dakota are also known to be getting the technology. Nokia has been supporting NFC on a basic level since 2006 but is just now promising it for its 2011 smartphones.