Each year Apple Inc. reveals new iterations of its iconic iPhone that do not include near field communication (NFC), and each year critics call it a serious blow to the prospects for the proximity payments technology.
In September 2013, Apple unveiled two new iPhone models, neither of which is integrated with NFC. But Randy Vanderhoof, Director of the Smart Card Alliance, said Apple's lack of NFC adoption is of little significance to the direction of the NFC market, and naysayers mistake Apple's deliberate approach to technology adoption as a rejection of NFC.
Vanderhoof stated that the percentage of iPhones in the marketplace is diminishing, and the number of Android-based smartphones that incorporate NFC is increasing. Additionally, Apple takes a pragmatic approach when it comes to integrating technologies into its products.
"Historically, Apple has waited for new technologies to settle down and become deployed and get the kinks worked out," Vanderhoof said. "And then they capitalize on that with usually a more elegant, advanced implementation of it. Since NFC is happening in small strides, rather than a massive rush, Apple has time to wait before it incorporates it into their system."
Vanderhoof believes Apple will adopt NFC eventually, but only as part of a larger integration between the iPhone, iTunes and the other services that operate within the Apple ecosystem. But Apple did make a move that could be considered a precursor to the adoption of NFC when it unveiled a thumbprint biometric scanning mechanism for its new iPhone 5S.
The security feature, called Touch ID, comes in the form of a sensor below the iPhone's display screen that is protected by a "sapphire crystal overlay," which also functions as the lens for the sensor, Apple said.
Apple's approach can be contrasted with how Google Inc. tackled NFC via Google Wallet. Vanderhoof said Google Wallet was a "half-hearted attempt, and there really wasn't a strong strategy to get behind it and push it forward."
Google struggled to get mobile handset developers to allow the NFC-enabled mobile wallet on their smartphones. Card issuers were also slow to integrate their payment cards with the mobile wallet. In addition, conflict arose when the mobile networks would not recognize and enable Google Wallet to operate on their networks, Vanderhoof said.
He believes Isis, the joint venture of AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile US Inc. and Verizon Wireless is taking the right approach to rolling out NFC payments. "They're building out the technology and the mobile wallet and the device," he said. "And they are lining up the partners in the financial industry, in the merchant industry, to be ready so that when they do their full launch, they have all of the parts in place, tested and working."
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