Tuesday, August 17, 2010, 12:35 pm PT (03:35 pm ET)
Apple already testing NFC-enabled iPhone prototypes - rumorFollowing the news that Apple recently hired an expert on near field communications, a new rumor suggests that the company is already testing a prototype iPhone that could be used for short-range wireless activities such as making in-store transactions.
Citing unnamed sources, TechCrunch reported Tuesdsay that Apple has already built NFC-enabled iPhone prototypes using hardware from NXP Semiconductor. The report alleged that Apple is already testing mobile payments for use in a future iPhone.
"The existence of prototypes would almost surely suggest that Apple will include NFC in iPhone 5, or whatever Apple decides to call its next iPhone," author Steve Cheney wrote. The report also speculates that NFC could be used for high-speed wireless data transfers and proximity-based features between compatible Apple devices.
This week, it was revealed that Apple hired Benjamin Vigier, who has been working with NFC technology since 2004. His previous role was project manager for mobile wallet, payment and NFC at mFoundry, a company that specializes in mobile payments.
Vigier's official title at Apple is product manager of mobile commerce.
Support for RFID or a number of other NFC technologies could allow a variety of "touchless" technologies, ranging from swipe payments where an iPhone could be used to pay for items at checkout, or sensing of information from kiosks and objects.
Apple's behind-the-scenes interest in NFC is well established, and has turned up in numerous patent applications filed by the company. A recent filing from July described a system that would allow users to rely on NFC functionality in the iPhone to research products and quickly find helpful information, such as an instruction manual.
Last year, reports suggested that Apple had tested Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, in prototype iPhones. The technology allows a device to sense embedded chips in nearby objects without making direct contact or without using visible light, like a barcode reader.
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