Near-field communications, or NFC, has been a buzzed about 2011 smartphone feature for a few months now. Google and wireless carriers have been fairly vocal about their support for it, but Apple may not join the party this year. The Independent reports that Apple has had meeting with several UK wireless operators and disclosed that it will not include NFC technology in the iPhone 5.
“The new iPhone will not have NFC, Apple told the operators it was concerned by the lack of a clear standard across the industry,” said an anonymous source close to the discussion.
Perhaps on a global basis, this is still the case, but three out of four major U.S. carriers–T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T–have agreed on the Isis standard for NFC several months ago. Is there a standards war brewing that we do not know about?
Google began supporting NFC technology with its Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) update in late 2010. The Samsung Galaxy S II and Samsung Nexus S are two devices that have the technology built in, which essentially allows you to use your phone as a credit card by holding it about 4 inches from a receiver, which processes a payment.
Once the technology starts being adopted, it will take years for gas stations, fast food joints, restaurants, stores, and vendors of all kinds to install NFC receivers in their checkout areas. There is also a chance that, like RF, it may not really take off at all for a myriad of reasons.
Months back, rumors pointed toward Apple working on its own iTunes solution for mobile NFC payments. It appears that this is still happening, we just may not see an NFC compliant iPhone until 2012. NFC was rumored to be implemented in the iPad 2 as well, but did not show up, lending credence to Apple’s current hesitation to include NFC in the iPhone 5. Apple doesn’t like to release new features until it has come up with a useful and clever way to use them. It took years for the company to include a front-facing camera. It waited until it had a compelling reason: FaceTime.