NFC for iPhone: The Rumor that Keeps on Giving

Apple is reportedly bringing NFC, or near field communication, technology to the iPhone 6, and has a payment deal in place with China UnionPay. NFC rumors appear ahead of every iPhone launch, so it isn't any surprise to see them popping up again, but claiming Apple has a payment service deal in place with China's bank card system is a new twist.

New rumor says Apple really is adding NFC to the iPhoneNew rumor says Apple really is adding NFC to the iPhone

Apparently Apple has a deal in place with China UnionPay that would let iPhone 6 users pay for goods and services with their smartphone instead of pulling out a credit card, according to BrightWire. Many of China's major banks have already been asked to participate in the program, too.

Apple has brushed off NFC so far claiming it's a technology looking for a problem to solve. Instead, Apple has been focusing on its own Bluetooth-based iBeacon tech, although so far it hasn't been used as a payment processing system.

Despite the company's apparent disdain for NFC, it did file for a patent related to the technology earlier this year. Stern Agee analyst Vijay Rakesh took that as the sign he needed to jump on board saying, "this is another filing that shows a handset with NFC with a key secure element and the Apple iWallet payment system."

One of the holdbacks to NFC adoption in the United States has been the lack of standard, which means your NFC-enabled device won't be compatible with every payment terminal system. Without a universal standard in place, NFC has languished while shoppers continue to pull out their credit cards instead.

Failing to adopt a standard also leads to customer dissatisfaction when the NFC chip in their smartphone isn't compatible with the retailers they visit. That, in turn, becomes dissatisfaction with their smartphone, and that's not a path Apple will likely go down.

What seems more likely is that Apple will push its own iBeacon technology as an alternative. Where NFC requires retailers and customers to have chips and readers that match, iBeacon relies on Bluetooth, which has been available on smartphones for years.

Retailers would need to add an iBeacon receiver to their payment system, and shoppers would need a payment app. The upside of requiring software instead of a specialized chip for consumers is that they could potentially take advantage of a Bluetooth-based system if they use an iPhone, or an Android or Windows-based phone.

Even though Apple has previously shot down NFC, that doesn't mean it won't appear in the next iPhone. The company has talked down features in the past only to add them in later, and that could happen yet again. That said, an iBeacon-based payment system seems more likely from Apple right now than a surprise switch to support NFC.