New iPhone '5' May Support NFC Chip; Is Apple Ready To Release The iWallet?
Passbook will be formally introduced with iOS 6, but Apple may also announce an expansion of that software, specifically for an NFC-capable iPhone. Reuters

Apple’s next flagship smartphone may get a bit of new technology, or at least technology that's new to Apple products. Near Field Communication (NFC) is a wireless communication technology used for sending data between devices, and it's commonly used as a wireless payment method. Apple has been reluctant to include NFC on its iPhones, but according to a new report from BrightWire, sources have indicated that NFC will be included on the next iteration of the iPhone.

“Apple is likely to incorporate a Near Field Communication payment function in the next-generation iPhone,” the report said.

Adding NFC to the iPhone may seem like an odd move for the Cupertino-based company. Apple’s iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad lines already ship with a close-range wireless technology patented by Apple called iBeacon, which uses Bluetooth low energy (BLE) technology. Apple first introduced iBeacon quietly on the iPhone 4s back in 2011. Last December, Apple made a push for the BLE technology by activating more than 250 iBeacons in its retail stores.

However, since NFC has become standard on most Android smartphones, its inclusion on the next line of iPhones may represent Apple playing a little catch up. While iBeacons are still deployed (currently, Major League Baseball is adding iBeacons to stadiums like AT&T Park), NFC has gained widespread adoption with many payment processors. Many vending machines and point of sales machines have used NFC for several years, whereas iBeacon still needs to attain widespread adoption to be useful to the average consumer.

The rumored inclusion of NFC comes at a time when Apple is exploring the mobile payment world. An Apple patent application filed in September detailed a combination of its Touch ID fingerprint scanner, first included on the iPhone 5s, and NFC, which has yet to be included on the iOS platform. Apple’s Touch ID system is currently used to unlock the iPhone 5s and can be used as a password replacement for the iOS App Store.

Apple’s iPhone 6 is rumored to make its debut this fall. Recent rumors have suggested that Apple plans to release the iPhone 6 a month earlier than expected, in August, as opposed to September, the month in which it released its last three iPhone models in recent years. In addition to NFC, the iPhone 6 is rumored to have a larger screen, measuring 4.7-inches. Apple’s next iPhone may also include Beats audio, as Apple is reportedly in talks to acquire the audio giant.