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Friday, June 03, 2011, 06:10 am PT (09:10 am ET)

Apple's plans for NFC e-wallet in future iPhone remain 'unknown'

Despite reports and evidence that Apple is exploring potentially including near-field communications in a future iPhone model, the company's plans remain "unknown," according to one RFID chipmaker.

NXP Technology spoke this week about its own NFC products at the Computex show in Taiwan. And while Android-powered handsets are planning to take advantage of the new Google Wallet service, Apple's commitment to NFC technology is still a mystery, according to Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White.

NXP reportedly indicated that Google Wallet will include partners such as itself, Citibank, MasterCard, First Data and Sprint. Initial trial rollout cities are expected to be New York and San Francisco.

And 80 percent of the smartphone market has reportedly committed to NFC technology thus far, including Nokia and Research in Motion. But the major player absent is Apple, as NXP said the Cupertino, Calif., company's "plans for NFC are unknown."

"Keep in mind, the opinions on whether the next-generation iPhone will include NFC have varied widely this year," White said, "as we believe Apple carefully evaluates this new technology and how to optimize it within the company's digital ecosystem."

In March, The New York Times reported that Apple was planning to include an NFC chip from Qualcomm in a future iPhone, allowing the handset to be used to make e-wallet mobile payments. The report said it was "unclear" whether the NFC feature would appear in Apple's fifth-generation iPhone, which is expected to go on sale later this year.

White said that at Computex, he gathered more data points to "confirm" that the next-generation iPhone will launch in September, and will continue to use IPS technology for its high-resolution Retina Display. Numerous rumors have pointed toward a later than usual launch for the new iPhone this year.

Whether or not the fifth-generation iPhone does include NFC technology, there is plenty of evidence of Apple's interest in an e-wallet-style system. They include hirings, patents, and even claims made by in-the-know mobile executives.