The big feature of this year's iPhone and iPad updates may be Near Field Communication payments, according to the Envisioneering Group, a US consultancy. Its director, Richard Doherty, assured Bloomberg he'd been chatting to engineers who are working on the project.
One of the key uses for NFC is to pay for real-world goods and services by touching a device to a reader -- an example is the Oyster card system used on the London Underground network. The potential for Apple to make even more money by introducing NFC to its iTunes account, and thus a credit-card or bank account.devices is huge -- not least because every one of them is already linked to an
Having NFC tech in the iPhone 5 and iPad 2 would only be part of the story. Doherty claimed that Apple has created a prototype payment terminal for use in shops and businesses, which it may even give away to ensure take-up. You'd expect such a system to be in use in Apple Stores first, as a showcase.
Bloomberg's report cites Apple's hiring last year of mobile-payments executive Benjamin Vigier as a key indication of its NFC plans, as well as a related patent request filed by the company.
We're also intrigued by what else might be done with NFC, which, as TechCrunch points out, is good for more than just touch-based payments. It can also be used to transmit information to other devices over short distances, which raises interesting possibilities for everything from gaming to social location services.