Speculation for months suggested Apple would put an Near-Field Communication (NFC) chip in its next iPhone. But when the iPhone 4S was unveiled this week, the mobile payment technology was missing from the device.
It wasn’t that Apple doesn’t like NFC technology, but they apparently decided to wait until mobile payment systems are more widely adopted, analysts said.
Apple officials didn’t respond to a request to comment on the decision not to include NFC in the iPhone 4S.
Rival Google has embraced NFC with its Google Wallet app that’s supported on the NFC-ready Samsung Nexus S smartphone sold by Sprint.
Several analysts said Apple won’t be hurt by waiting to deliver an NFC-ready iPhone. NFC technology is rolling out slowly in the U.S. and surveys have shown many Americans are still relatively uninterested are in the technology, perhaps because of security concerns, they noted.
“Apple took a calculated risk that NFC takeoff will happen over a number of years, and that they wouldn’t be hurt if they didn’t include it in the new iPhone this year,” said Mark Hung, an analyst at Gartner. “That bet has paid off.”
Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, added, “Given that NFC and e-commerce from phone is still very early on, I think Apple has not really missed the boat on this. In about six to 12 months when NFC starts to gain momentum, Apple will have a new device that includes it. That will be timely enough in my opinion.”
Gold and Hung both said engineering NFC into a smartphone is difficult and time consuming and requires a combined software and hardware development effort by a manufacturer.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld.