If Near Field Communication wasn't set to become the next biggest thing in payments since credit cards, Apple wouldn't reportedly be wasting its time building contactless capabilities into its next generation iPhone and iPad devices.
Citing a consultant familiar with Apple, Bloomberg reports the consumer technology company will launch devices supporting NFC in 2011. The technology, which can send and receive data over a very small distance is widely expected to become accepted by the masses as a means to completing transactions using mobile phones. As Bloomberg notes:
Apple’s service may be able to tap into user information already on file, including credit-card numbers, iTunes gift-card balance and bank data, said Richard Crone, who leads financial industry adviser Crone Consulting LLC in San Carlos, California. That could make it an alternative to programs offered by such companies as Visa Inc., MasterCard Inc. and EBay Inc.’s PayPal, said Taylor Hamilton, an analyst at consultant IBISWorld Inc.
Apple spokeswoman Natalie Harrison declined Bank Systems & Technology's request for comment on the rumor.
Apple reportedly hired an NFC expert last year as its Product Manager of Mobile Commerce. Elsewhere in smartphones, Google announced in December that it included NFC support in Android 2.3, or Gingerbread, its latest iteration of the Android mobile OS, and subsequently launched the Samsung Nexus S, the first Android device with NFC hardware to complement Google's new software. Another sign the perfect storm in NFC payments is building, last November saw the announcement of Isis, a joint venture between AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile to establish a mobile device-based payments network.
So why does it really matter whether Apple is getting into the NFC game or not? Simply, there is no single smartphone so widely adopted or desired by the general public as Apple's iPhone. Through fiscal year 2010, the company has sold more than 70 million iPhones. And the number of iPhones sold domestically will only grow now that the device will be sold on Verizon as well as AT&T. If you want NFC payments via mobile device to become widely accepted, get the technology up and running on the most coveted smartphone out there.
Whether the rumor Apple is putting NFC into its next generation of iPhones and iPads is anything more than that, it would make sense that the company is at least considering turning its devices into the the world's most popular digital wallet.