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New iPhone could pack NFC for mobile payments with Passbook

A reported tip concealed within code suggests Apple's next iPhone will have NFC tech built-in.

The next iPhone could come with NFC tech built-in, making it possible to pay for things using your Apple-branded blower.

9to5Mac has been digging around in code taken from iPhone prototypes, and reports to have discovered near-field communication controllers hooked up to the device's power management unit.

That suggests Apple's next rectangular playthings could come with NFC hardware on board, letting you transfer data between devices with ease, or pay for fancy Pret sandwiches by smacking your smart phone against in-shop pay points.

NFC has been cropping up on Android smart phones, most notably the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which uses NFC to transfer files between phones and could work with Google Wallet -- Google's mobile payment system.

Microsoft recently touted its own NFC payment system for Windows Phone 8, inventively called Wallet. Card details are stored on your phone, and then cash is taken from that account when you wave your mobile at the till.

Code-based hints aside, there's good reason to think Apple will stick NFC in the iPhone 5. Tim Cook and cohorts recently showed off Passbook, a new app that stores digital tickets, boarding passes, coupons, vouchers and so on. NFC isn't required to use Passbook, but it could work with it, and it's a sign that Apple has your personal finances in mind.

UK network Orange has also hinted that Apple could be considering the technology for its sixth smart phone.

NFC hasn't really taken off yet, so if Apple wants to muck in, the pressure will be on for it to persuade shops to adopt the technology, and get the ball rolling.

Of course, if Apple does choose to stick an NFC chip in the iPhone 5, don't expect the company to refer to it as such -- I'm envisioning a new service called 'Cash', 'Shrapnel' or possibly, er, 'iMoolah'. Maybe.

Would you use your phone to pay for stuff in shops? Or would you rather keep your hard-earned inside a good old-fashioned wallet? Let me know in the comments or on our Facebook wall.

Image credit: Blackpool Creative