updated 04:50 pm EST, Wed November 16, 2011
Apple patent sets groundwork for iPhone NFC shares
A newly published Apple patent application could lead to NFC (near-field communications) iOS devices but also possibly conflict with other device-to-device sharing plans. A "Device-to-device workflows" patent would set up a handshake between two devices that would exchange data in a multi-step script when the two get near. As an example, a primary device could request contact information, bring up the camera app to take a photo of the contact, and get a bookmark in the web browser to the new contact's website.
Similar to the way Bluetooth 3.0 works, the NFC could be used to simplify the pairing for a much faster Wi-Fi connection.
The description is partly targeted at retail and uses a diagram showing two people at what's made to resemble an Apple store exchanging data between each other's iPhones. It wouldn't be limited to this field, however, and could be found in homes and schools.
Whether or not Apple acts on the patent isn't clear. It originally applied for the patent in September 2008 and was still using the iPhone 3G as its visual example. Apple has at least been exploring the concept in the past, although it has since gone three generations of iPhone without NFC.
The short-range wireless feature might clash with similar services that already exist. Android Beam on the Galaxy Nexus and other Android 4.0 devices with NFC may be the closest parallel: users can send websites and other information with a workflow for granting permission and launching relevant apps on both sides. Nokia uses NFC for pairing Bluetooth devices, and individual iOS apps that don't use NFC, like Bump, still rely on similar exchanges.