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Rumor: Apple to enter mobile payment space with NFC-enabled 'iPhone 6'

Near-field communications chips have been rumored to become part of the iPhone lineup for years, but this year's anticipated "iPhone 6" may see Apple finally take the plunge, according to a new report.

Citing unnamed "sources familiar with the matter," Wired reported on Thursday that an NFC chip capable of mobile payments will be "one of the hallmark features" of Apple's next-generation iPhone, which is expected to debut on Sept. 9. Details on how the system might work were not relayed, though it's speculated that Apple would leverage its Touch ID fingerprint sensing technology, along with a massive collection of active iTunes accounts, to make its e-wallet service stand out.

The rumor also comes as AppleInsider discovered a new patent application earlier Thursday that described using an NFC chip to allow inductive, cordless charging on mobile devices, like an iPhone or even a mythical "iWatch." The filing details how a device could make use of an NFC antennae to double as an inductor for charging, negating the need to duplicate any hardware.

Thursday's report isn't the first to suggest that Apple might adopt NFC technology in its next iPhone. Earlier this month, a leaked schematic claimed to be from the "iPhone 6" suggested that an NFC chip could be included inside the device. Similar conclusions were drawn from a leaked part that surfaced in July.

Apple has also filed for patents that describe mobile payment systems utilizing NFC RFID technology. But to date, the company has relied on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for short-range wireless functions, most notably with the company's proprietary combination of the two, dubbed iBeacon.

Rumors of NFC functionality in a future iPhone have persisted for years, and seem to appear leading up to just about every new handset launch. And though there have been a multitude of NFC-capable smartphones on the market for years, has never been an Apple product with NFC functionality.

One rumor that surfaced this summer claimed that Apple was accelerating work on a mobile payments system that could be ready by this fall, launching as part of the "iPhone 6." That report claimed that Apple was in talks with partner companies, including Visa, in an effort to debut its own e-wallet platform.

But Apple's reluctance to embrace NFC thus far has led some to speculate that the company could create a mobile payments system that relies on the established Wi-Fi/Bluetooth combination of iBeacon, which would be capable on existing iPhone models, and presumably as well on the anticipated "iPhone 6." One Apple patent filing even describes in great detail a system using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to offer mobile payments.