It looks like Apple’s PassBook app will have more uses than just concert tickets, boarding passes, and Starbucks cards. New prototypes hint the iPhone 5 will have NFC built-in for mobile payments.
According to 9To5Mac, the same data from iPhone 5,1 and iPhone 5,2 prototypes that showed the larger display also contain information that deals with NFC. The code has the NFC chips attached directly to the power management unit (PMU), which meshes with previous reports of a similar Qualcomm chip in the new iPhone.
The NFC chips will likely link to Apple’s new PassBook app, making it a competitor to Android’s Google Wallet. With NFC, PassBook can potentially use iPhone users’ iTunes credit cards for contactless payments.
Mobile payments through NFC were previously hinted at in an Apple patent for “iWallet” which handled credit card information through iTunes. We doubt Apple will rely on iTunes desktop software for mobile payments now as the company no longer views the desktop or laptop as the center of our digital lives. In Apple’s view, the Mac or PC is simply another way of interacting with our content and information.
9To5Mac also compiles hints to NFC from the past. Last year amidst the fervor of the would-be iPhone 5 The New York Times cited a source that claimed a future iPhone would have NFC for mobile payments, though the iPhone 4S definitely doesn’t have the chip. A MasterCard executive also seemed to drop hints to Apple talking to the company about mobile payments in a Fast Company interview.
Previous rumors said the iPhone 5 won’t have NFC, but we hope that it does. Without it PassBook seems like an empty promise of future features. Microsoft is building NFC support into Windows Phone 8, and Google already has the support, though Google Wallet is limited to Sprint. We can almost forgive Apple for forgoing 4G LTE until this year, but we don’t want to wait another year for NFC that will help bring about widespread mobile payments.