Multiple sites are reporting on the story reported in the Independent that Apple will not put NFC support into iPhone 5. (See here, here, and here) The sources say that Apple is “concerned by the lack of a clear standard across the industry” and will wait until a standard is established to add the feature.
My Take: This would be disappointing if true as NFC seems very useful even without a mobile payment solution. I thought of the pros and cons from Apple’s side of including an NFC chip in iPhone 5 or waiting until iPhone 6.
The case for putting NFC in iPhone 5 would include allowing Apple and third party developers to create useful applications for sharing devices between iOS devices. Games, syncing, sharing information (such as contacts or URLs) come to mind. This would make iPhone even more attractive to customers. Without NFC, iPhone would be at a disadvantage against NFC enabled Android and RIM devices. Google is making a big deal of NFC support in Android and RIM has said most of its 2011 devices will include it. (RIM is already working with Bank of America on a mobile payment pilot). Whenever Apple wants to roll out a mobile payment solution, they will have millions of phones ready to use it.
The case for waiting to put NFC into iPhone 6 would be that third party developers would not be able to make iPhone 5’s work with non-Apple mobile payment solutions. If iPhones were mobile payment enabled before Apple’s payment system is released it would help other systems get established before Apple’s could compete. Preventing this is worth the cost of having millions of NFC enabled iPhones at launch. It could entice the faithful to just buy new phones.
Unfortunately, the latter case seems more likely. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Apple’s developer’s license prevented apps from implementing a mobile payment solution other than Apple’s. That would suck, but is entirely possible and not unlikely.