updated 03:25 pm EDT, Tue July 5, 2011
Apple patent on NFC Macs published at USPTO
A new USPTO patent filing has revived rumors that NFC-based Mac-to-iPhone syncing is in development. The patent for an "electronic device with conductive housing and near field antenna" would have a computer or any other display-equipped device carry spiral antennas to pick up near-field communications from a smartphone or other mobile device when brought close. Its example design, which resembles an iMac or a similar computer display, would work with multiple devices put typically within about four to eight inches away.
Using NFC could turn it into a point of sale device, Apple says in one example, much like the MasterCard PayPass terminals used for Google Wallet. It could also be used as a security measure as a smart card reader.
The patent was originally filed in August 2007, just two months after the original iPhone reached the market, and hints that Apple has been considering the option almost as soon as iOS was on the market. Its existence isn't a guarantee Apple will create a finished product but makes it clear Apple has been investigating NFC for some time.
One unverified claim has had Apple embedding NFC into all Macs from a certain point onward and using the feature to offer a device-linked Mac-to-Mac sync. As described, it would let a Mac user port over system preferences just by bringing their iPhones or other iOS devices close to a given Mac. The feature wasn't discussed with Apple's iOS 5 reveal but is also contingent on having NFC hardware that neither Macs nor current iOS hardware is known to have.
NFC could also theoretically be used to more quickly pair wireless devices, including an iOS 5 device for Wi-Fi syncing.