Apple to restrict NFC chip in iPhone 6 to mobile payments

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is restricting the functionality of the Near Field Communications chipset embedded in its new iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch products to its Apple Pay mobile payments program, according to multiple reports.

The restriction was first reported by Cult of Mac, and then later confirmed by other news outlets, including The Verge and CNET. The devices are the first from Apple to support NFC, which is a short-range wireless technology useful for exchanging information. However, as a result of the NFC chip's being for use solely in Apple Pay, iOS users will not be able to use NFC to pair with other electronic devices, transfer contacts and files, open doors or use other applications via NFC.

NFC has been supported in other platforms, including Android and Windows Phone, and users of those platforms do not face restrictions in how it is used. That Apple is restricting the use of NFC is not entirely surprising, though. When the company introduced its Touch ID fingerprint scanner with the iPhone 5s in 2013 it restricted its use by third-part developers.

An Apple representative confirmed the technology restrictions to CNET, adding that developers would be restricted from using NFC in other apps for at least a year. Apple declined to comment on whether the NFC capability would remain restricted after that.

However, as The Verge notes, there is hope for Apple fans. Even though Touch ID was initially restricted, Apple opened up the capability to developers with iOS 8, its latest software update.

Apple has signed deals with Visa, MasterCard and American Express for its mobile payments program, which will launch in October and use NFC technology, embedded in the top of Apple's new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Apple is also working with major banks in the U.S., including Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citibank and Wells Fargo, to enable the service. Apple Pay will work across more than 220,000 merchants nationwide, Apple said, including Duane Reade, Macy's, McDonald's, Sephora, Staples, Subway, Walgreens and Whole Foods.

Apple has gone out of its way to reassure consumers about security: The company said users' credit-card numbers are not given to the merchant and that instead the service uses a one-time payment number and a "dynamic security code" to protect users' financial data. In addition to NFC, Apple Pay uses the phones' Secure Element chip and Touch ID to confirm transactions.

For more:
- see this Cult of Mac article
- see this The Verge article
- see this CNET article

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