Apple’s recent launch of iPhone 5 had one glaring omission: NFC.
The industry had been looking to Apple, hoping it would give near-field communication (NFC) a leg up by bringing the mobile payment technology to its large user base, and hopefully wrapping it within a great user experience.
So be it. It’s another hurdle for NFC of course, but it’s far from a death sentence. If Apple had put an NFC chip in iPhone 5, it would have simplified adoption, and been a clear play to own the secure element. The omission means that Apple is not planning to own any NFC secure element at this stage, so the question of who will remain unanswered.
Other device manufacturers are designing and releasing enabled devices—more than 60 phones are available now. Accessory manufacturers are launching NFC-enabled sleeves and cases that add the payment technology externally to iPhone 5 like what we have seen with the CBA Kaching application in Australia. (See this video for details.) Operators will still continue to push it onto the SIM cards.
Other banks and payment networks worldwide (Raiffeisen Bank International in Austria and the UnionPay network in China, for example) are also rolling out contactless payment services using external accessories or existing phones, and there are more plans and pilots afoot in France, Taiwan, and the U.S.
What was Apple thinking? My guess is that the company feels it has a stronger bid with mobile commerce through the 400 + million credit card details it has from iTunes. With that, why does the company need NFC? Besides, Apple is a closed shop. Always has been. I’m not sure why the news that it’s not supporting a global standard has been such a surprise.
Apple is continuing to do what it’s always done: enabling its own closed ecosystem, and going its own way.