About the iPhone 5’s lack of NFC

Thu, Sep 20, 2012


The iPhone 5 is hitting stores in just a day, and though it has a bevy of new software and design features, some folks are still yapping away calling it a boring upgrade. One “shortcoming”, if you want to call it that, is the iPhone 5’s lack of NFC support, you know the technology that would enable folks to purchase goods and services with their phone via having it connected directly to their checking or credit card account.

So why no NFC? After all, some Android phones have the technology built right in.

Well, former Apple employee Matt Drance lays out a compelling argument as to why it’s in Apple’s best interest to just sit tight and wait.

Behold the NFC issue. What can people do with it today? All we hear is what they should be able to do with it someday. Search the web for “near field communication” — the 2010 articles read exactly like the 2012 articles. And boy are they wordy.

It’s not the technology that matters — it’s the utility that the technology provides. There are plenty of solutions to the mobile payments problem. NFC has not delivered, and Apple has no incentive to change that. By shipping NFC in the current climate, Apple would implicitly take responsibility for making that technology a success. That means not just building a first-class iOS experience, but working with businesses to accelerate adoption around the world.

As it stands now, Apple has absolutely no problem selling the iPhone. Hell, it sold over 2 million iPhone 5’s in just 24 hours with some analysts expecting over 8 million units to find their way into the hands of consumers on this coming launch weekend alone. To that end, Apple is just fine keeping NFC functionality on the sidelines for now, and given its slew of NFC related patent filings and NFC personell hires I’m sure they’ll be able to implement it when the time ever does become ripe.

As Drance points out, Apple’s market dominance to a certain extent ensures that NFC won’t really become mainstream until Apple hops on board. And if there’s one thing we know about Apple, is that they do most everything according to their own schedule, everyone else be damned.

Lastly, Apple executive Phil Schiller even addressed the iPhone 5’s lack of NFC support last week, noting that “it’s not clear that NFC is the solution to any current problem.Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today.”


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