updated 03:40 pm EDT, Mon November 1, 2010
Could build on top of e-wallet tech
Apple is researching a type of data sync based on NFC (near-field communications) for the iPhone 5, a Cult of Mac source claims. The company has been rumored as testing NFC technology in recent months, and is known to have hired an NFC expert, and filed for several patents, mostly involving electronic payments. Many Japanese phones already allow NFC payments using a local standard, FeliCa.
Apple is also, however, said to be exploring the idea of letting an iPhone carry and transfer desktop settings and a limited amount of personal content. In this scenario, waving an NFC iPhone in front of an NFC Mac would prompt the computer to load various programs, as well as content that personalizes a system like bookmarks, passwords and Address Book contacts. Mac OS preferences such as desktop pictures and mouse and keyboard settings would be carried over; the tech could eventually support software licenses and website passwords. Home folder material would be accessible either through MobileMe storage or Back to My Mac.
The waving action would, moreover, be a simpler way of unlocking a Mac. At the end of a session, with a phone out of range, a computer would automatically restore local settings and clear out any synced data.
The source suggests that Apple has always been looking for a way of allowing people to carry home folder content with them, but that that this is now problematic thanks to massive iTunes and iPhoto libraries. "I don't know if this information will be stored on the cloud or not, but I do know that smaller bits such as preference files, system settings, documents, keychain passwords, and other items would be stored on the iPhone for fast retrieval," the person mentions.
Because NFC by itself is said to be slow, it's believed that it may prompt another protocol to take over for data transfer. "The usual idea is that you would use NFC to set up the link between the two devices and then do an automatic hand over to a different protocol for doing the actual transfer of data -- e.g. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, TransferJet etc. -- and that's what I imagine would be happening here," says Sarah Clark, an analyst at SJB Research. The source warns though that despite all of Apple's efforts, there is no guarantee NFC sync will reach a commercial product.