Will a Lack of NFC Hurt the Next iPhone’s Chances?

An Apple NFC iPhone patent from 2010.

An Apple NFC iPhone patent from 2010.

Apple’s next iPhone won’t have near field communication (NFC) capabilities, according to Wall Street research firm Bernstein (via Business Insider). Rumors have been going back and forth about whether Apple would include the tech in its next-gen smartphone, which recent reports suggest we won’t see until at least fall (if not later).

Google moved early with NFC, including it in its Nexus S smartphone and showing off multiple uses of the tech at its I/O developer’s conference just last week. But NFC has probably gotten the most attention because of its potential for mobile payments. The tech’s inclusion in smartphones could allow users to pay for goods and services in the real world simply by swiping their mobile devices in front of NFC equipped payment terminals.

That and other applications (like mobile advertising and home automation) make NFC an exciting future prospect, but will Apple suffer from not having an NFC-equipped smartphone out in 2011? Not likely. NFC may have a lot of interesting potential, but don’t expect to see it become a significant part of anyone’s daily life for some time yet.

According to ViVOtech CEO Mick Mullagh, who spoke to our own Ryan Kim, NFC won’t take off in a big way until next year. Even then, we’re only likely to see the tech starting to catch on. Isis, the NFC joint venture between Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, said it will only launch its first pilot program in Salt Lake City next year. Really widespread adoption and the reach of supporting infrastructure are still probably a few years out. And since NFC’s biggest trick is payments, which is a complex field with lots of established players, upstarts and regulatory concerns that need to work in harmony in order to appeal to consumers, you can safely bet that the word “NFC” won’t be printed in big glossy letters on consumer electronic product packaging any time soon.

Apple is no stranger to sticking to the sidelines while a technology works out its adolescent issues and gains a little more maturity. It waited until 3G networks were fairly built-up and available nationwide before deciding to include that wireless broadband standard in its iPhone. Apple also has yet to suggest that it will be providing an LTE offering in any of its upcoming mobile devices, even though 4G-equipped Android handsets are already making their way to market.

While Apple may miss out on some early learning experiences regarding NFC by keeping itself out of the game, it can probably catch up on any tricks it might miss with strategic acquisitions down the road. And until NFC proves it has something to offer that consumers want to buy, it’s not doing much good for Google besides providing interesting tech demos for developer conferences, anyway.

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