iPhone 5 NFC snub explained by Apple

The lack of contactless tech in Apple's newest super phone is because NFC is a solution looking for a problem, claims bigwig Phil Schiller.

Natasha Lomas Mobile Phones Editor, CNET UK
Natasha Lomas is the Mobile Phones Editor for CNET UK, where she writes reviews, news and features. Previously she was Senior Reporter at Silicon.com, covering mobile technology in the business sphere. She's been covering tech online since 2005.
Natasha Lomas
2 min read

Being the super well-informed CNET reader you are, you'll know Apple hasn't included NFC in the iPhone 5.

And you won't need me to remind you NFC is a contactless info-sharing technology that can be used to make payments with your phone, or act as a shortcut for grabbing or sharing info when used in conjunction with NFC tags, stickers and the like.

You'll also know NFC is kicking around in plenty of smart phones these days -- including the Samsung Galaxy S3, the HTC One X, the Sony Xperia S and P, the BlackBerry Bold 9790 and Curve 9360, and the forthcoming Nokia Lumia 920 -- to name just a few NFC-enabled devices that spring to mind.

So why, despite all these rival NFC blowers -- not to mention all the iPhone 5 NFC rumours -- did Apple choose to snub contactless tech in the latest edition of its super phone?

The answer is NFC is the proverbial solution looking for a problem, according to Apple senior exec Phil Schiller, who has been chatting to the Wall Street Journal's AllThingsD tech blog.

Schiller said Apple views its iOS 6 feature, Passbook, as a better alternative to NFC since it does what most customers want -- by storing their loyalty cards and tickets in one handy place -- and also keeps retailers happy, because it works with their existing payment infrastructure instead of requiring them to shell out for contactless terminals.

"Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today," Schiller boasts.

Schiller's words chime with comments made by mobile network Orange earlier this year, when Jean-Paul Cottet, executive VP of group marketing and innovation, told me that "seen from Apple's perspective, the NFC market is not yet enough mature".

AllThingsD also probed Schiller on why the iPhone 5 lacks another much-hyped tech, wireless charging. Again, Schiller suggested, this tech doesn't actually simplify your life very much, so isn't really worth including.

"Having to create another device you have to plug into the wall is actually, for most situations, more complicated," Schiller told AllThingsD.

Finally, Schiller was asked why Apple has complicated iOS-lovers' lives by changing the iPhone's dock connector from a 30-pin plug to its new Lightning connector. He said a smaller dock was needed to build such a thin and light new iPhone and iPod.

iOS fans sobbing into their disconnected accessories can at least take comfort in the thought that Apple won't be messing with the connector again for the foreseeable future. "This is the new connector for many years to come," said Schiller.

Are you mad as hell there's no NFC in the iPhone 5? Or do you think NFC is about as useful as a chocolate teapot? Let me know your thoughts in the contactless comments below or shout to be heard on our Facebook page.