Will the iPhone 5 support mobile payments via NFC? A report out yesterday from the folks at AnandTech says no.
Alleged photos of the iPhone 5's assembly posted by Taiwan-based blog Apple.pro pointed to a part that not seen in previous photos. The dimensions of the part reportedly matched those of certain NFC chips, leading to speculation that the mystery component could be an NFC chip.
The addition of electronic ticket organizer Passbook to iOS 6 also fueled rumors that the new iPhone would let users make mobile payments using near-field communications.
But AnandTech has discounted both of those tidbits, asserting that the new iPhone's backside precludes the possibility of NFC.
"Given the primarily metal backside of the new iPhone, it's highly unlikely that NFC is in the cards for this generation," the technology review site said. "In fact, given the very little space at top and bottom dedicated to those glass RF windows, you can almost entirely rule it out.
The NFC antenna itself would need ample and dense space, more than would be possible if it were placed at the tight top or bottom of the phone's assembly.
"With an NFC antenna at the extreme top or bottom, alignment with non-iPhones (for example, payment tokens or reader tags) becomes a much more confusing task, and that doesn't seem like the Apple-like level of polish everyone is waiting for to drive NFC adoption," AnandTech added.
Including Passbook in iOS 6 isn't necessarily a sign of NFC either, the site noted, since Apple hasn't revealed whether it would use NFC, low-energy Bluetooth, or even a QR code-based payment system for the Passbook transactions.
So what is that mystery component seen on the photos? AnandTech speculates that it could be a touch and display controller designed for the new iPhone's thin in-cell touchscreen.
Google has already inched its way into the NFC arena by including the technology on a few of its handsets. But the demand for NFC-based mobile payments has yet to take off, at least in the United States.
If AnandTech's conclusions are on target, Apple may feel no rush to enter the NFC market at this point, especially if adding the hardware would pose technical issues for the new iPhone.
It's also possible Apple may not yet have all the necessary pieces in place for full NFC support. A patent granted to the company just today revealed a method to help users confirm that a mobile transaction has been completed, a necessary feature to guard against unwanted purchases.