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Apple readying Near Field Communication tech for new iPhone?

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Apple customers look at the new Apple iPhone at an Apple store in Palo Alto, Calif., Tuesday, July 24, 2007

© PA Images / Paul Sakuma/AP

Apple could be preparing to incorporate Near Field Communication (NFC) technology into the next iPhone, enabling users to pay for goods directly with their handset.

Technology website 9to5Mac said that it has analysed a hardware code dump from a suspected "new iPhone" prototype, which suggests that NFC controllers will be directly connected to the handset's Power Management Unit.

Apple has already shown willingness in the emerging mobile payments market by recently announcing Passbook in its forthcoming iOS 6 operating system upgrade.

Competing with rival services such as Google Wallet, Passbook is like an address book for things such as boarding passes, movie tickets, retail coupons, and loyalty cards, which can be scanned using barcodes and geographic hotspots.

But 9to5mac feels that Apple will extend this initiative to offer a 'contactless' payments and data transfer system in the new iPhone.

The site noted that the firm already has hundreds of millions of credit card details on file via iTunes, meaning it would be relatively straightforward to set up a secure mobile payments system.

Alongside payments, NFC would also theoretically enable iPhone users to quickly and easily share files with other iOS device owners.

Some mobile handset makers have been hesitant about adopting NFC as there is no clear way to make money from it as yet.

Many mobile operators and retailers have also preferred to use dedicated payment apps to enable people to pay for goods without needing an NFC smartphone.

But Jim Peters, the chief technology officer at SITA Labs, said that Apple will mostly likely look to really drive forward the nascent NFC market.

"Opinion is that Apple is going to incorporate NFC into Passbook," he told Computer World.

"Apple just thinks about how they can make it really easy for the user, and then they figure out how to monetise it. They don't think about how to monetise it and then tell the user what they can have. It doesn't work like that.

"There aren't any transactions in it yet, but I think that's how Apple is going to sneak up on the industry.

"They are going to get people used to using it and then all of a sudden they will allow credit cards to be used in there, on the next iPhone, which will include NFC."

However, this is not the first time that we have heard rumours of an NFC-enabled iPhone.

Before the iPhone 4S was released last October, the New York Times said that it would have NFC, which proved to be untrue.

But Peters feels that NFC is about to come of age and Apple will want to dominate that market.

"There is a lot of debate that NFC will never take off because of all the arguments. But you need to get ready, this is coming," he said.

"This is going to happen. By the end of the year the majority of smartphones that you go and buy will have NFC on them. If in October the next iPhone comes out and it has NFC on it, it's game over."

Apple is expected to announce the next model of the iPhone in October this year, potentially including a larger screen, tapered casing, 4G connectivity and a smaller charging connector.

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