No NFC on the new iPhone

Brian Klug, Anand Lal Shimpi for AnandTech:

Given the primarily metal backside of the new iPhone, it’s highly unlikely that NFC is in the cards for this generation. In fact, given the very little space at top and bottom dedicated to those glass RF windows, you can almost entirely rule it out.


  • Really? What’s the usefulness of Passbook then? (serious question)

    • Presumably it will function as Square’s Card Case does. Worst case scenario (or at places like sporting events), it will probably display a QR code to scan like the Starbucks app.

      • That was my initial assumption but that seems to be going backwards, tech wise.

        • Boborbt

          QR code it is. All tech sessione at WWDC explained that passbook will be a fancy way of storing tickets that can be then read by an optical QR code reader.

          • Ok, thanks.

          • Adriano Geletes

            That’s right, but with passbook you can do so much more, especially with a NFC enabled mobile iPhone!

    • Bluetooth LE will have to be the key.

      • So you have to pair to walk through a line at the airport? Or, does LE not require pairing?

        • BLE uses something called “Secure Simple Pairing”. I wonder if it will be something as simple as a one-time popup: “(vendor) wants to access your ________” Accept/Deny.

    • MGZ

      Watch the keynote video. There was no mention of RFC and it appears perfectly useful.

      • They don’t typically talk tech specifics and it wasn’t the device launch so I can’t take that presentation to the bank on whether NFC is there or not.

        Edit: And more importantly, the question was “how” not whether one persons assumption is it will be “perfectly useful”. I’m interested in the tech here. (nothing personal)

    • If you watch the promo video again, you’ll notice a preponderance of barcodes being displayed by Passbook.

      Almost everyone already has barcode readers. Barcodes also don’t have the ridiculously high implementation costs of NFC. MasterCard started trying to push NFC in 2005; seven years later there’s still very low market penetration because consumers don’t trust it and it costs an arm and a leg for retailers to implement.

      And with more and more small businesses turning to solutions like Square, NFC’s fortunes likely aren’t going to change anytime soon.

      • Yeah, I remember the barcodes but figured something better was lined up.

      • Unfortunately a lot of those barcode readers (like laser scanners at the grocery store) won’t work off a glossy screen.

        • jamesrgrinter

          Single data point… but British Airways scanners can read their 2D barcode off iPhone and also iPad (bit tight for clearance, but it worked fine).

    • ChristoDeluxe

      Given the sad state of point-of-sale terminals, I’m not surprised that Apple would skip NFC again for a year to two more. The on-screen barcode combined with other features like geo-targetted WiFi (like they do with EasyPay) services are workable and easy to use for customers and don’t require nearly as much technology for the stores. I doubt Apple will get into NFC payments until/unless they can move it out of the hipster space (Starbucks, etc..) and into the mainstream retailers.

      • True. They are slow (read: very calculated) to move outside tech forward.

        • pseudonymous in nc

          Because outside tech in this area evolves very slowly. There’s room at the edges for things like Square, in situations where users haven’t previously invested, and where the hardware itself is cheap. Passbook remains a way to shape a potential implementation when that changes.

          (NFC’s also a place for the carriers to throw around their malign influence.)

      • Adriano Geletes

        Apple could be a catalysator for NFC! As they have been before and suddenly others would start seeing big opportunities in using NFC. Someone has to be the first, and I can see, why Apple is waiting: They dont want to make the same mistake again. Be the first with the coolest way of using NFC and then get ripped by a bunch of Samscums! Passbook is just a start, there is sooo much potential in this area – I don’t see any borders.

        • Kchan1111

          Samsung’s Galaxy S3 already has NFC enabled. All other handset vendors have NFC smart phones. If there is any questions on copying this time it would be Apple copying others.

    • Barcodes. And GPS.

      • GPS? I get the barcodes but do tell on the GPS.

        • My understanding is cards can set up geofences. So if you have the Starbucks card and you walk near a Starbucks, it appears as an icon on your lock screen so you can swipe into it easily. I believe things like boarding passes can also remind you when it’s time to check in.

          It sounds like a lot of the same functionality as Reminders, in a way.

          • Ok, that makes sense for geofencing. I thought Andrew Wood meant GPS for payments.

            Geofencing is pretty quality for payments.

          • Scott

            That’s a great idea, but boy is it a battery sucker. Geofences are one of those things that need a much stronger battery than is currently in the iPhone.

          • It may not be the same as a Reminders geofence. It might work more like EasyPay, which I think is dependent on you being on the right WiFi network. Uh…I could be wrong about that though. I’ve not really looked through the documentation.

        • For example, if you enter a Starbucks, location services (aided by GPS) will automatically load your Starbucks passbook info so you don’t have to go searching for it in the app. I believe this was in one of the iOS6 videos.

    • Walt French

      Buy-online movie barcodes, airplane boarding passes, … about anything where you need convenient, verifiable proof of a purchase made otherwise (i.e., without Apple needing to soften its 30% transaction policy).

      • 30% could be a non-starter for traditional businesses. I’m pretty sure it will be.

  • Also, there would have been coding support for it in the iOS6 Beta by now

    • True. They probably would have opened the floodgate for devs.

    • Steven Fisher

      I don’t think NFC is coming, but I don’t think this is a very strong argument. Apple’s been remarkably good (or bad, if you prefer) at not revealing new hardware features to developers via their SDKs. It’d be pretty easy for them to isolate NFC to a single framework and then not make the framework available in the beta SDKs. Except, of course, to a specific handful of developers… which we’re not among. 🙂

  • Well that’s sort of disappointing.

    On the other hand, given what a mess NFC is on Android right now (Google Wallet isn’t supported by anyone but Sprint), I’m not that surprised.

    • I have Google Wallet on my T-Mobile Galaxy Nexus. I understand you can hack it to work on Verizon too.

  • If true, this gives Android and Windows Phone a leg up as it’ll be another year before the next iPhone. This would also emphasize that Apple’s more concerned with form (aluminum) over function (NFC?) Discuss…

    • But the function of NFC has been useless to date, so what are we missing?

      • Far from useless. Sharing files/etc from Android to Android via NFC is quite useful and NFC payments (just touch your device to a pad and click accept) is very promising, just not widely implemented.

        • Canucker

          NFC has a huge trust problem. It will take time to warm to it. Unfortunately (and I am not being biased in this respect) I think if Apple had implemented NFC prior to Android, it might have built confidence faster. I just hope Apple doesn’t poo-poo NFC and spoil the barrel for this technology.

    • Apple’s ignoring NFC might be more a Blu-Ray type reaction than an indication for ‘form over function’. Why would they want a component to dictate the physical design of their device, if it is good for nothing anyhow?

      All Apple needs to do, is to offer an payment authorization through iTunes and put the required authentication (e.g. using newly acquired finger print scanning technology) into each iOS device. Over 200 million credit card accounts of those who actually do pay for something… is more than Google would have to offer in a long time.

    • Boltar

      Or, NFC is shaping up like another ‘bag of hurt’ for a few more years, complete with as-yet undiscovered security exploits (and at least one already published). Meanwhile if the idea is just transactions over short distances, GPS with optical bar codes supplemented with Bluetooth should be able to do about as much. As far as I can see NFC primarily just removes a bit of transparency to the user in a way a GPS and Bluetooth-connected bar code does not. I would be very reticent about exposing users’ credit info to any unproven tech.

    • Adriano Geletes

      It has nothing to do with function or form, it just has something to do with what is right and what isn’t!

      If Apple believes NFC could make a change and their implementation in iOS could help Apple and Developers to make more money, they would do it. But as it seems, they dont see any of this now. Who knows, what they really are working on, what kind of damn cool application for iOS (with iCloud) will be out in a few weeks or months or is planned for iOS 6.1/6.2!

      Although I am a bit disappointed in iOS 6 (except for passbook, which damn cool and has an enormous potential), I am really excited about to see what is coming after!? I hope they will allow an easy way to implement animated icons and lots of more new stuff!

    • Adriano Geletes

      So, I didn’t reply that well in my first statement, all I wanted to say is, they will have something for us, which will be great, I can smell it! They will amaze us with something big, maybe not in september or october, but sooner or later and I know it will be something big! And who really knows that NFC wil be the future, because till NFC didn’t set a footprint anywhere. Maybe there will be an easier and smoother way with fingerprint, Siri and some voice recognition etc.

  • Imt

    But, what if the chip is really a storage card for a fingerprint scanner and one way depository for CC info. Instead of NFC, maybe you swipe/press with your finger to present a barcode for payment against your card or a unique number that presents against your CC. Almost all merchants are able to take gift cards now so this actually would give apple the leg up over NFC that has yet to take off. Circumvents the entire NFC issue and can be implemented everywhere. The fingerprint scanner/chip is the security portion for payments that raises passbook beyond what was revealed. Pretty ingenious actually if they go this route.

  • deviladv

    I wish I could find it, but I saw an article where Apple was looking into using the existing wifi chip for a NFC like system. The theory was why put another chip into the phone to communicate when the wifi chip there already would work just fine?

    But I only saw the article once, didn’t save it, and can’t quickly find it.

    And if there’s no payment system at all, what’s going to be the new iPhone’s great new feature?

  • The real clue will be in whatever technology is quietly getting pushed out to Apple stores to support Apple’s Passbook. Should be really soon if not done already.

  • QR codes are slow and clumsy. If I have to fumble through pages of apps to open up Passbook I will never use it. If I could just open the camera app and it is smart enough to know to scan the QR code, similar to how Android does it then maybe I will mess with it.

    We have NFC payment places all over NY. Even on Coke machines.

  • gjgustav

    Good. NFC is not mainstream, and only geeks are calling for it. What problem does NFC solve? Why doesn’t a barcode solve this problem in the same way?

    • Try buying something with a bar code at McDonalds… no optical scanners there, but all McDonalds have NFC in the credit card terminals. Bar codes can’t be used in that environment, and for unattended transactions a more or less constantly running optical scanner is a bad idea, it could also pose health hazards to kids trying to peek into the scanner. I have a NFC tag in a my wallet as a business card, anyone with a NFC phone just swipe their phone by my wallet and all the contact info is stored as a digital contact, and I never run out of business cards then. As for the security issue, handing your own phone over to another person to have bar codes scanned sounds tons worse to me versus me scanning my own phone and verifying with pin code, finger print or whichever security blanket you use on the NFC app like Google wallet that I use on Verizon. The reason all operators are trying to limit it is that they want to release their own payment system, meaning AT&T, verizon etc all believe NFC will be the tool to do it. a iphone without a passport that can be used to directly pay for things and replace a wallet is a retarded idea, and offer no advancement whatsoever over existing apps. Apple will have to do something bigger than that for usefulness. Although I am sure the brain dead masses will cheer anyway since they have not experienced anything better and lack the foresight to realize what could be better than whatever current implementation they have. Which is good for companies on the other hand as each new feature seem mindbogglingly smart then… (rather that blatantly missing previously).

      • gjgustav

        Kids peeking into barcode readers? Why is that a health hazard? A barcode reader need not be a laser reader like at the supermarket. My iPhone’s camera can read QR codes. Are saying it’s dangerous to look into the lens of the iPhone camera?

        Who said you need to hand your phone over? Place it on the reader yourself. You are making up security issues. And as you said you have an NFC tag in your wallet and anyone with an NFC phone can swipe it. And any criminal can swipe their phone near your pocket and get NFC data from your wallet including NFC enabled credit cards.

        Oh yes, everyone who disagrees with you are brain dead masses because they can solve the problem with the technology they already have instead cramming yet another radio circuit into a phone.

        You have a funny definition of “better.” I’d rather have a system that I explicitly display and can see where it’s being scanned, rather than a system where the person in line behind me can scan my payment data too and I’m none the wiser.

  • I wonder how much Apple is avoiding NFC as a tactic to undermine Android ecosystem. If iOS never adopts it, it’ll never take off mainstream…which would ultimately sabotage the efforts of most Android handset OEMs, and Google Wallet, in preventing/delaying widespread POS adoption of NFC readers.

    • Good point. Avoiding the “me too” isn’t outside their potential strategies.

  • Whether supported by NFC, bluetooth or wifi, I hope the new iPhone supports retail payments. It seems most likely if they are also implementing fingerprint recognition, which would solve the security concerns of retailers and the credit card companies.

    Also, once people are using their phones to pay for things, it will be very convenient to assign a rating to merchants … so very quickly Yelp will become competitive with Google/Google maps as a source of consumer comments and ratings, etc.

  • Boltar

    [erroneous post deleted]

  • Until you can use NFC at the gas pump, the local grocery stores and movie theaters, it’s going to be a fringe product only hipsters will use – at least as far as payments go. There are of course other uses for NFC, and I expect Apple will enter the market slowly before making NFC payments a “killer feature.”

  • Nope. I’ve heard NFC will be in the new iPhone.

  • Jon V

    I should be surprised but I’m not. As someone stated earlier, retailers are slow at updating their terminals with the latest bank card features so NFC on a phone is even highly unlikely. I haven’t seen any retail stores around me and I live in a big city.

    Banks in Canada are just announcing new tech services for customers coming this Fall which got me thinking it was syncing up with Apple’s new iPhone.

    But really who knows. Even Jim can be saying “Yep!” just to screw with us!

  • seems NFC is not useful for commoners yet…or is it that Apple has not been able to utilize it to its full potential.

  • imthedude

    So I guess this quietly confirms the photo’s we’ve seen of iPhone parts as well.

  • Steven Fisher

    I’ve actually had a free lunch riding on NFC not being included for a few months, based on someone who reads rumor sites being convinced it will be.

    Candy from a baby.

  • LCJ

    Is there a barrier to having the NFC antenna near the glass front of the phone? How much area would be required?

    • The NFC antenna is very large, and it operates at a very low power. I’d guess it was a space issue; or maybe Apple has some plans with Bluetooth 4.0 and Passbook.

  • Djs65

    An external keyboard on the new iPhone would be a MUST BUY. The messaging /email screen gets small w/ internal keyboard.

    • Steven Fisher

      So buy one. And use it.

      Any bluetooth keyboard will do.

      There must be small bluetooth keyboards out there somewhere.