Now that Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has officially notified the world that it is hosting a media event Sept. 9, the rumors about its next products are flying fast and furious. One major new one is that, according to Wired, the next iPhone will contain support for Near Field Communications technology for mobile payments.
The iPhone getting NFC has been a perennial rumor, but unnamed sources told Wired that Apple is envisioning using NFC for a new mobile payments platform. According to a Financial Times report, which also cited unnamed sources, Apple is working with Dutch chipset specialist NXP Semiconductors on the solution.
Apple and NXP declined to comment, according to the FT.
In July, The Information reported that Apple was getting close to launching a mobile wallet for the iPhone 6, That report, again citing unnamed sources, said that Apple told some of its partners its system would use the iPhone's so-called secured element, which is a piece of hardware where sensitive information such as a user's financial credentials can be stored. The report said Apple has discussed elements of its plans with credit card associations including Visa, as well as banks. Apple also wants to launch a mobile wallet without giving up any control to wireless carriers, the report said.
In the past, Apple executives have downplayed mobile payments in general and NFC in particular. However, based on the new reports, that appears to be changing. Android, Windows Phone and other platforms have supported NFC for years, but Apple could potentially galvanize adoption and push more retailers to install point of sale terminals that would let customers swipe and pay via NFC, especially in the United States. Apple-focused blog Daring Fireball also speculated that Apple's rumored wearable device could also use NFC for mobile payments.
"I think it's a really interesting area," Apple CEO Cook told the Wall Street Journal of mobile payments in April. "We have almost 800 million iTunes accounts and the majority of those have credit cards behind them. We already have people using Touch ID to buy things across our store, so it's an area of interest to us. And it's an area where nobody has figured it out yet. I realize that there are some companies playing in it, but you still have a wallet in your back pocket and I do, too, which probably means it hasn't been figured out just yet."
The NFC device market is expected to expand over time, according to analysts. Global shipments of mobile phones equipped with NFC technology will surge fourfold between 2013 and 2018 to 1.2 billion units, according to research firm IHS Technology. Worldwide shipments of NFC-enabled mobile phones reached 275 million units in 2013, up 128 percent from 120 million in 2012. The market will expand by at least 50 percent this year to reach 416 million units, IHS said.
However, NFC has yet to truly take off in the U.S. market, especially for mobile payments. Only half of U.S. smartphones are equipped with NFC today, according to Jackdaw Research estimates cited by the FT.
Meanwhile, in other Apple rumors, the FT and the Guardian reported, without citing their sources, that Apple is tightening its rules for developers on how they use consumer data generated by health and fitness applications.
According to the reports, Apple has told developers that they cannot sell users' personal data to advertisers based on the data that is collected from health and fitness apps as part of Apple's new HealthKit software platform.
HealthKit is designed to allow applications to contribute to a composite profile of a person's health data. According to the FT, in in the latest update to Apple's iOS developer program license agreement, Apple said developers must "not sell an end-user's health information collected through the HealthKit API to advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers."
The shift comes ahead of the expected unveiling of Apple's first wearable device, which many have dubbed the iWatch. The gadget is expected to focus on health and fitness monitoring, and Apple's move could be a way to avoid regulatory scrutiny of iOS health and fitness apps and encourage adoption and usage of HealthKit.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published an application Apple filed in early 2013 for a patent related to wireless charging technology that shows how it could be used on a smart watch or other Apple products.
Apple is holding its Sept. 9 event at the Flint Center for Performing Arts, near its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Interestingly, observers have taken photos of a large building Apple is constructing on the site, potentially for hands-on demos of forthcoming Apple products.
- see this Wired article
- see this FT article (sub. req.)
- see this Daring Fireball article
- see this separate FT article (sub. req.)
- see this Guardian article
- see this The Loop article
- see this LA Times article
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