Well this is certainly interesting news. Hot on the heels of Foxconn CEO Terry Gou claiming that the iPhone 5 will put the Samsung Galaxy S III to shame comes a report via 9to5Mac alleging that the next-gen iPhone may, in fact, come with Near Field Communication (NFC) support which would enable iPhone users, amongst other things, to make payments for goods by swiping their device over a payment pad.
Incidentally, rumors surrounding Apple's efforts to implement NFC functionality really picked up steam in the months preceding the iPhone 4S release, though Apple's patents and NFC hires stretch all the way back to 2009.
We have previously been able to pull data from PreEVT iPhone 5,1 and iPhone 5,2 prototypes codenamed “N41AP (5,1)” and “N42AP (5,2)”, which lead us to believe that the new iPhone will have a bigger 1,136-by-640 display. We also detailed a lot of the hardware ), but we forgot one very important bit of information. Further investigation into this hardware code dump leads us to believe that these iPhones also have Near Field Communication controllers directly connected to the Power Management Unit.
The implications are obviously monstrous. With the recently announced PassBook application (which we detailed prior to its announcement while speculating about an NFC tie-in), Apple will be set to compete with Google Wallet and Microsoft’s similar service that unveiled last week. Apple could tie in with a payment processor like Citibank’s PayPass system for credit card transactions—or it could become a payment processor of sorts with its hundreds of millions of credit cards already on file at iTunes.
Indeed, with millions of credit card accounts on file thanks to the popularity of iTunes, Apple has a built-in advantage when it comes to NFC payment mechanisms as compared to Google and Microsoft.
Again, reports that Apple had been testing iPhone prototypes with NFC functionality date back to 2009, so this is clearly a feature Apple has its sights set on at some point. Also, Apple in 2009 hired NFC expert Benjamin Vigier to head up Apple's mobile commerce division - which was responsible for the recently announced Passbook app that will debut when iOS 6 is released in the Fall of 2012.
It's also worth mentioning that Apple has filed a number of NFC related patents, including one detailing a system whereby iOS users could use their device to purchase food, tickets, and even exclusive concert footage and paraphernalia while attending a music show. The patent in question also details how similar systems could be set up at other events like sporting events and amusement parks.