Does Apple TV’s Tap to Pair Feature Hint at NFC on iPhone 5S?

Though Apple has been stubbornly avoiding adding NFC on its products thus far, the company may be experimenting with the idea with its Apple TV remote pairing setup. Revealed in the latest iOS 7 beta, Apple TV now allows iOS device owners–such as those with the latest iPhone–to pair their phones as a remote control without the need to use Apple’s included infrared remote. Now, using Bluetooth 4.0, all users need to do is tap their phones to the Apple TV to pair.

As the feature does require Bluetooth 4.0, only newer devices, such as the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5, are supported with this new pairing procedure. The discovery of the NFC-like pairing of an iOS device to be used as a remote control for Apple TV was posted on 9to5 Mac.

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Companies like Nokia have made Bluetooth pairing easier by using NFC. For example, a Nokia smartphone can just tap the phone on a compatible NFC accessory–like a Bluetooth speaker–to pair. This eliminates complicated pairing procedures including turning on the Bluetooth radio manually and entering any security PIN code to complete the pairing. NFC enables the relationships to be established when the process is initiated. Other companies have tried to leverage NFC for payment, including Google with its Google Wallet app, but so far the digital wallet with NFC has yet to gain momentum.

It’s unclear still how Apple will broaden its tap to pair procedure in the future. Interestingly, though, while the pairing of an iOS device to the Apple TV as a remote control for Apple utilizes a similar procedure as NFC pairing, neither device contain an NFC, or near field communications, chip.

Apple had said in the past that NFC was not critical for the iPhone, and it may be trying to leverage many of NFC’s features over Bluetooth instead.

Another NFC feature would be tap to share where two phones could be tapped together to share photos, music, videos, and files. Apple had avoided NFC in its implementation by using WiFi with AirDrop. Perhaps, in the future, we can see a tap to share with AirDrop by emulating some of the actions that Android and Windows Phone users take with NFC sharing, but with the AirDrop protocol instead. This could also signal that Apple may be considering the inclusion of NFC in the iPhone 5S.

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