Are you ready for some foo… Oh wait, I was thinking of the National Football Conference. In this case, NFC refers to Near-Field Communication, a wireless technology already used on some countries to turn phones into digital wallets. Google’s pushing it in Android with the Nexus S. Now word from Bloomberg is Apple is doing the same with the next iPhone and iPad.
Their source claims to have gotten the scoop from Apple engineers working on the hardware. Of course, even if they are authentic, they don’t have the final say of whether the technology makes it into the hardware. That said, the argument for including it is pretty compelling. NFC payment systems are still relatively unknown in the States, but they are steadily maturing in parts of Europe and Asia. With or without competition from Android, NFC is on its way to becoming a standard that requires support. More interesting is how this fits in with Apple’s ecosystem.
Inclusion in the iPhone is a no-brainer, but waving an iPad at the register doesn’t strike me as a very convenient way to pay. However, NFC in an iPad makes a lot of sense if used as a point-of-sale device. Much the way Apple Store employees use iPod touches equipped with card readers, an iPad equipped with NFC could be the payment receiver in an NFC-based exchange. We’ve seen a donut vendor using Square for credit card processing on an iPad and seen more cash register going mobile. An iPad with NFC takes this to the next level.
There’s also the question of whether Apple would set up their own payment processing system to go along with this. They already have account info for millions of paying iTunes customers. Margins on that seem too tight for them to bother, letting specialists like PayPal implement the actual payment systems instead, but I can see them working something out for their own media and app purchasing system.
And that’s just the payment-processing aspect of NFC. Whatever else the technology offers, you can bet app developers will be all over it.
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