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Apple may be arriving to the party fashionably late, but if its recent patent activity is indicative of its future plans, the company is readying itself to join the list of device manufacturers offering NFC smartphones. Last week Apple was granted a patent for “Parental Controls,” which initially sounds like a fairly innocuous, ho-hum development. Upon closer examination, however, this patent is actually related to a virtual wallet application, which, not surprisingly, is called “iWallet.” This patent, in conjunction with many others similar in nature granted to Apple over the recent past, indicates that the company is establishing groundwork to enter the contactless payment game.
In typical Apple fashion, no definitive announcements have been made, but this most recent development suggests that the company could formally launch its NFC entry with the iPhone 5 expected to reach the market later this year. While a new entrant to the NFC smartphone market is generally not groundbreaking news at this point in time, a NFC-enabled iPhone is a clear exception that would generate considerable media buzz. If Apple does in fact include NFC in the next generation iPhone, we believe it has potential to be a watershed in the evolution of contactless payment and e-wallets for several reasons:
As NFC industry observers, we believe Apple’s entry into the NFC smartphone market will be the kick-start that the NFC industry needs. Not only does the company represent the last major manufacturer yet to support NFC, it also has a fiercely loyal user base that would significantly increase awareness for the technology almost instantly. Taking into account all these factors, we think Apple has the potential to bring NFC and contactless payment to the masses like no other company possibly can.