updated 03:45 pm EDT, Mon March 21, 2011
Tips point to NFC in iPhone 5 Qualcomm chip, WP7
Swirling rumors of NFC in the iPhone 5 were fueled on Monday by fresh tips that also Windows Phone 7 plans. Two sources said the near-field wireless would be built into the Qualcomm cellular processor for either the 2011 update or its successor. While not mentioned by the NYT's insiders, it would most likely most a variant or successor to the MDM6600, which provides both CDMA and GSM and their matching 3G standards.
They also detailed some of the back infrastructure. A user could link the credit card information from iTunes to payments with a phone swipe. It's implied the method wouldn't replace alternative payment methods but would help users get ready more quickly if they already have iTunes accounts.
Microsoft might also be getting into the category, another source said. It was still early, but the company was reportedly looking at it for a future version of Windows Phone. The recent deal with Nokia might be a stepping stone, since it promised NFC on all 2011 phones and could likely popularize it quickly. Use of Qualcomm Snapdragons in WP7 hardware might simplify the strategy by giving Microsoft a ready-made source.
Other smartphone manufacturers have already pledged their support for NFC in some official capacity. Google has support built into Android 2.3 and the Nexus S, and should be trialing with VeriFone soon. RIM has already committed to BlackBerry phones with NFC but may be running into conflicts over its desire for control.
NFC technology is already popular in Japan, where FeliCa runs on the same core philosophy, but is expected to take on new meaning with smartphones and a more international release. It lets users not just pay for things through proximity but read tags and other information without having to memorize a site address or snap a photo of a QR code.