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Monday, November 01, 2010, 11:00 am PT (02:00 pm ET)

Apple's next-gen iPhone rumored with RFID-enabled 'remote computing'

The addition of a near-field communication chip to Apple's next-generation iPhone would add not only "e-wallet" transactions, but also the ability to securely turn a nearby Mac into your own computer, complete with custom settings and personal passwords, according to a new rumor.

Citing an anonymous source, Cult of Mac reported Monday that Apple is working on near-field communication technology for both its smartphone and future Macs. The functionality is rumored to appear in Apple's next iPhone, expected to launch in June 2011.

The source said an iPhone with near-field communications like an RFID chip could be used within proximity of a Mac, allowing users to load applications, settings and data on the Mac from the phone. When the iPhone is taken away from the proximity of the computer, the data would disappear with it.

"The Mac authenticates with the iPhone, which contains a lot of the information the computer needs, such as bookmarks, passwords and other data," the source reportedly said. "The system would essentially turn any Apple computer into your own — like you're actually working on your own computer. Same settings, look, bookmarks, preferences. It would all be invisible. Your iPhone would be all you needed to unlock your Mac."

The information contained on the phone would reportedly include contacts, desktop picture, mouse and keyboard settings, website passwords, and even software licenses. Taking the iPhone away from the proximity of the computer would then restore the Mac to its original state.

The source indicated that Apple is interested in making it easy for users to carry all of their information with them, but that task has become difficult as file sizes and the amount of data continues to grow. They said it's possible that Apple could store larger files in the cloud, while the basics like passwords and documents would be contained on the phone.

Last week, a report alleged that Apple is developing a new open SIM for its next-generation iPhone, which would allow one handset to work with multiple carriers. It was also speculated that the technology from a partnership with Gemalto could also enable contactless transactions through an integrated RFID chip.

Rumors of an RFID-enabled iPhone have existed for some time, though the product has not yet come to be. However, Apple has filed patents related to near-field communications, including an application in July that described a system allowing users to rely on NFC functionality in the iPhone to research products and quickly find helpful information, such as an instruction manual.

Apple has also hired experts on near-field communications, and was even rumored to be testing iPhone models with RFID chips as recently as August.

Cult of Mac's source indicated that Apple has been working on RFID-equipped products and its "remote computing" technology for some time, but cautioned that it may never become a part of the company's products. But the adoption of near-field communications could be a superior alternative to other short-range wireless technologies, like Bluetooth, because of a simpler and faster secure authentication system.

Cult of Mac's recent track record has not been tremendously accurate, as the site incorrectly reported last month that the new MacBook Air would have user-upgradeable RAM, processor speeds up to 2.4GHz, and a battery life of between 8 and 10 hours. The site did corroborate AppleInsider's own, accurate report that the new MacBook Air would come in two screen sizes: 11.6 inches and 13.3 inches.