The NFC-enabled iPhone 6 — What should we expect?

It has been widely rumored that when Apple unveils its new iPhone on September 9, the device will contain NFC and an embedded secure element, allowing the company to join the burgeoning mobile payments market.

Samsung has included NFC chips in their handsets for years, but until now, Apple has deferred from adding the technology to its handsets. With every new iteration of the iPhone, rumors swirl that this will be the year when Apple’s iPhone gets NFC. And the iPhone 6 is no different. But the timing is.

Unlike in years past, Apple is now increasingly interested in the mobile payment market, with numerous reports suggesting that Apple is preparing to enter the space. Apple’s new rumored mobile payment service will allow people to use their iPhones to make purchases for physical goods in apps and on the web, as well as in retail stores.

Courtesy of iPhone 6 News and Updates

Courtesy of iPhone 6 News and Updates

It has been suggested that Apple’s two new iPhones (rumors suggest two different sized screens) will feature NFC and an embedded secure element, but will not support host card emulation (HCE).  According to Martin Cox at Bell ID, “The Apple wallet will use the embedded secure element (eSE) along with the user’s payment instrument that is already linked to iTunes.” It has also been widely reported that finger print scanning on the device will offer an additional, and powerful, form of authentication.

If the Apple rumors are true this time, we may finally be seeing an NFC iPhone, but it will be on Apple’s terms, locking its customers into an Apple-only environment. Apple’s NFC will act as a physical layer only, enough to talk to a POS terminal and pay with an iTunes account.

As David Shalaby at TapTrack recently pointed out, a full NFC stack in the iOS SDK is unlikely at this early stage. “The Android NFC team spent a long time implementing a full NFC stack with a proper SDK and documentation yet few compelling NFC apps have been developed since. Apple users are not asking to scan a smart poster, create their own tags or ‘beam’ content to another phone, they are asking for a way to pay with an iPhone.”


About the Author:

Robert P. Sabella has 20+ years of legal and entrepreneurial experience and is considered one of the most innovative leaders in developing and bringing new technologies to market. He is the founder of the NFC Bootcamp™ training series and has recently co-founded the AccelerateNFC incubator program, dedicated to fostering start-ups in bringing NFC technology to the market. He is co-author of RFID+™ and a prolific writer and speaker on NFC and RFID.

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