The next-generation Apple iPhone, already being dubbed the iPhone 5 by analysts, may hold more than just media and contacts.
Advancements in near field communications technology, or NFC, can turn Apple's venerable iPhone into a digital wallet, capable of charging normal retail purchases to a user's iTunes account.
Analysts first predicted the technology would make it into the most recent iPhone iteration, the iPhone 4S, but like 4G, the technology was not mature enough for Apple's standards.
Citing unnamed Taiwanese manufacturers, however, DigiTimes says that Apple, alongside other manufacturers, will begin to adopt the technology into its 2012 handsets -- in other words, the iPhone 5.
As Android, Symbian, BlackBerry and Bada have supported NFC functions, and Microsoft and Apple plan to make Windows Phone and iOS support NFC in 2012, the proportion of NFC-enabled smartphones will quickly increase from less than 10% currently to over 50% in two to three years, the publication said.
Samsung, Research In Motion, Nokia, and HTC all have NFC-enabled phones currently on the market.
One challenge to broad adoption of this technology is that while Apple could accomplish this on its devices, there would still need to be broad infrastructure established to support the payments at the points of purchase. Adequate build-out could take several years.
Additionally, implanting an NFC chip in the iPhone could add $450 million to $900 million to the cost of goods for Apple's 2012 fiscal year, which could lower Apple's gross margin by 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points.