So Now We Know For Sure – No NFC in iPhone 5

Sep 13th, 2012 | Posted by

Yesterday Apply confirmed what many of us speculated on for months – iPhone 5 would not have NFC capability. It’s a beautiful phone – slim, elegant, with many attractive features, and no doubt will sell very well in the market. However, the payments industry was mostly interested in the question of NFC – “will they or won’t they?”

The answer matters because as the single most popular smartphone, iPhone has significant power to influence the market sentiment. The inclusion of NFC would have been seen as an important endorsement of technology and would surely have given impetus to NFC deployments around the world. The fact that Apple chose not to include NFC keeps the questions open about what technologies will ultimately prevail when it comes to exchanging payments credentials and other information at the POS.

Apparently, there are two main reasons for not including NFC at this stage. The first is that the focus this time was very much on getting the phone as slim as possible and NFC would have detracted from that. As laudable as that objective is, I think it is the second explanation that was the determining factor – Apple didn’t see the need at this time. Apple’s Senior VP Phil Shiller was reported saying that “Passbook does the kind of things customers need today”. Apple are known for only including technologies in their products that they believe would be widely adopted and used by the customers right away. And, as we all know, NFC today suffers from not being “immediately useful” given the lack of capable terminals and other relevant infrastructure.

Just to be clear, (as far as I know), Apple has not made a statement that they would not support NFC in the future. However, it is a statement that the ecosystem needs to develop further before Apple decides to throw its weight behind NFC.