Should you or shouldn't you expect NFC in the iPhone 5?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Should you or shouldn't you expect NFC in the iPhone 5?
Yesterday, we broke down the engineering reasons why you shouldn't be expecting NFC to be part of the iPhone 5, but we have a bit more Appley reason why you might not want to expect to see NFC in Apple's next-gen device. Apple has been quiet about the whole thing, which we fully understand, because Apple has no reason to announce anything before the big iPhone 5 reveal that is expected in just over 2 weeks. But, inquiring minds want to know, and so far the evidence is inconclusive.

As we've seen already, there was no mobile payment system announced as part of the Passbook app during the iOS 6 unveiling. But, that doesn't really give us much information, because it seems obvious that Apple wouldn't show off any mobile payment system before it has announced a device with the hardware capable of such transactions. It is definitely possible that Apple held back the actual mobile payment functionality of Passbook, and is going to show it off with the next iPhone. 

There have been leaks of what we assume are iPhone 5 parts, and on one hand it looks as though there could be a spot for an NFC chip, but the same piece that could be a spot for an NFC chip could very well be for the in-cell touchscreen controller. We have seen patents from Apple that show that the company has definitely been working on the GUI for a mobile payment app for at least 3 years now, although, once again that doesn't prove that the system will be part of the next iPhone. 

But, aside from all of that conflicting evidence, and all of the rumors, we think that there is really just one question that needs to be answered which is a key to whether or not the iPhone will have NFC and mobile payments: Is the NFC infrastructure ready?

As Google, Nokia, and RIM have proven (and Microsoft will soon be following) that you can certainly put NFC into a mobile device, but the usefulness of that hardware is still a bit hazy, which is probably why it is so uncertain as to whether or not Apple will have it in the iPhone 5. Apple loves matured products, and doesn't like to jump onto a new technology before it has proven itself.

As far as the other functionality of NFC-enabled devices, Apple has a leg up on the competition because of its closed ecosystem. There are very few Android devices with NFC chips, so the Android Beam functionality is pretty limited unless you have friends with NFC devices. Apple wouldn't have that problem so much because every iPhone user going forward would have NFC and be able to share things with each other with just a tap. 

As far as other uses, NFC has certainly proven that it will be a big part of the future, but it hasn't proven yet that it is a big part of today. If you live in certain places, NFC is probably a great option for you. If you live in the New York City area, and frequent Duane Reade, NFC is pretty nice. If you go to pharmacies like CVS or Rite Aid a lot, or convenience stores like 7/11, NFC is there. If you love McDonalds, NFC is there. But, NFC is certainly not everywhere, and that is sort of a prerequisite for the idea that your smartphone can be a full wallet replacement like Google and Microsoft would like. 

Apple is not the type of company to have different models of its products for different regions either, or else we would have already seen an NFC-enabled iPhone somewhere else, like Japan. Japan has a huge infrastructure built up for NFC from mobile payments in stores, and the ubiquitous vending machines, to the public transportation system nationwide. But, many other regions don't have that same infrastructure, and NFC probably won't be a common thing for at least another year. And, in that time, there could very well be more security issues aside from the ones we've already seen, which Apple would surely like to avoid. 

That gives Apple some leeway, and means that it doesn't necessarily need to have it in this year's iPhone, and could easily hold it back to have a killer marketing feature for next year's iPhone. Maybe the S in iPhone 5S will be for Apple's "Safe" app which could be a digital lockbox for your credit cards, etc? 

It is definitely possible that Apple will have NFC ready, and will have more features to Passbook that we didn't see before, but it is far from a certainty. NFC is the wave of the future, that's pretty certain. With big names like Microsoft, and Google behind it, not to mention every major credit card company, and the major mobile carriers. That's a lot of power behind this technology, but the tech hasn't been built out enough just yet. It still can't be found in many major supermarket chains. It isn't in most fast food chains, or other restaurants. And, it can't be found in most retail stores either. Apple knows this as well as anyone. 

A sea of iPhones with NFC chips could possibly help to get the technology into stores faster, but it will also lead to a lot of iPhone users with something in their devices that they can't really use all that much. And, Apple rarely puts a lot of effort into marketing a feature that doesn't have much use for the majority of users. 



21. ZayZay

Posts: 571; Member since: Feb 26, 2011

Soooooo NFC is the only topic on this new iphone right now? Slow times at Apple I guess.

16. ph00ny

Posts: 2085; Member since: May 26, 2011

Is anyone expecting apple to follow the real standard? They went ahead with imessage, airplay, etc

19. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Apple always follows standards when it means devices interacting with outside products (like NFC payment systems). The means of transferring files between iPhones via NFC will likely use some sort of proprietary system though.

23. Fallout09

Posts: 421; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

Add.... 8 pin connector.

15. CharlieAtInfinity

Posts: 253; Member since: Apr 10, 2012

Whats the use of NFC on iphone when it cannot even send files from bluetooth and has no usb mass storage

18. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Is that a real question?

13. jenna_23

Posts: 145; Member since: Apr 02, 2010

Well I have nfc on my xperia ion right now not once have I used it o_O

10. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Without a doubt Michael is one of the best writers in this site. I wouldn't expect Apple to release NFC until next year like you said. When more people start to use it, then they would use the feature due to popular demand.

8. The_Innovation

Posts: 649; Member since: Jul 18, 2012

Honestly, who cares?

7. Joshing4fun

Posts: 1258; Member since: Aug 13, 2010

I expect it now and trust me, it'll be "revolutionary".

9. The_Innovation

Posts: 649; Member since: Jul 18, 2012

Sarcasm, right? I hope...

11. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

You must be new here. Of course he's being sarcastic. Apple releases a feature that's been around, slaps their name on it and call it "revolutionary" on "The world's most advanced operating system."

14. The_Innovation

Posts: 649; Member since: Jul 18, 2012

Yea I figured, but thanks for the confirmation lol.

6. Mittal

Posts: 494; Member since: Dec 14, 2011

this post seems inpired from a similar one at AnandTech

17. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Perhaps similar, but definitely not inspired. I'm not even sure when I last visited AnandTech. Maybe a case of great minds thinking alike?

24. Mittal

Posts: 494; Member since: Dec 14, 2011

oki similar :)

20. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Can you post the link? I can't even find the article you're talking about, just the one that Vic sourced yesterday for his piece, which is all about hardware of the iPhone.

4. andyandy1

Posts: 1; Member since: Aug 29, 2012

eh who needs an iPhone, check out the 4 new colors Samsung is adding to Their Galaxy S III : mobileadvancesDOTcom

2. bobfreking55

Posts: 866; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

chances are they'd save it for the 5S or something, because they'd keep the same design and etc... they'd have to have something ''game-changing'' again --- something like the Bluetooth 4 on the 4S. then again, maybe they will, but ususlly Apple keeps it's upgrades as minimal as possible. 4" screen may be good for the next iPhone, iOS 6 is a failure, camera will be good, and probably a better siri and 4g... what else?! is that worth 850 dollars?

12. sgogeta4

Posts: 394; Member since: Feb 02, 2011

Except Bluetooth 4.0 isn't game-changing, it's just catching up.

1. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

If the iPhone 5 looks anything like that Chinese copy then really who cares. I am really worried that Apple might actually just make a taller/longer iPhone 4. -_-

3. wendygarett unregistered

I don't mind that :) How do you expect the 4inch screen phone to be ?

5. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

Different looking. Just like all other 4" plus phones out there. Nokia phones always look different, Samsung phones look different, HTC phones look different, & Sony phones all look different. I can really keep going..... Why is it that Apple is fine with the same design just a little taller? Remember what happened to RIM for having the same OS & the same designs? Apple: same OS (iOS6) Same design (iPhone 4, 4S & maybe 5). Looks like history is repeating it self. Please let's hope the iPhone 5 looks different than a 3 year old iPhone 4. Please!

27. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

The iPhone's design may be different from the leaks, but I don't see it being too different from their rectangular, external antenna design. Most people are happy with it.

22. ZayZay

Posts: 571; Member since: Feb 26, 2011

As much as I dislike Apple (Thumbs please), I don't care what it looks like as long as I have enough in stock on launch day to make a lot of money that month in sales. New accessories are a fortune to me when I sell 3 per phone and sell 100 phones when it launches. It is the only time I am thanking apple for coming out with a new phone.

26. Obdabeast

Posts: 41; Member since: Jan 01, 2012

no business can complain about apples constant sales.. definitely brings in the money on all the accessories being sold for them. I have customers even now buying Iphone 4s's even though they know the 5 is coming out soon. ( mind you I'm an android guy )

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