iPhone 5: Near Field Communication (NFC) Enabled?

From the news on the Internet, there are iPhone 5 whispers around that seemed to point to a new iPhone 5 that come with a new design, a 4-inch screen, even 4G LTE and Near Field Communication(NFC).

The rumored iPhone 5 release date is just about one month away, sometime in Sep/early Oct 2012. Inputs from Apple and its affiliates heralds that iPhone 5 is going to be the hottest and most sought after phone across the world, running the new iOS 6, the latest major update to Apple’s mobile operating system.

First, what is NFC all about?

NFC allows two devices (such as the iPhone 5 or Galaxy S III) which are embedded with some electronic chips to snuggle up together, and exchange small pieces of data/info between each other when they are in close proximity (a maximum distance of about 4cm). This exchanged data can be credit card information (for payment), coupons info (for authorisation), movie tickets info (for admission to the movie) etc etc. I think you get the idea how it works.

As all of this exchanged information is rather private/sensitive, it means you’ll need to get up close and personal with the other device in order for it to get your data — a simple swipe or tap should do the trick.

What are the possibilities that NFC can bring to us, as a consumer?

NFC can emulate as a contactless card. Put simply, your phone can act as contactless card! If you are familiar with the Visa’s wireless contactless wave pay and Mastercard’s Paypass, then instead of taking out the Visa/Mastercard from your wallet, you simply just have to wave your phone briefly at the reader, and your payment for your McDonalds meal will be instantly made. How cool can it get, especially if your stomach is growling?


What else can it do? It is actually a reader of sorts, which means that it can communicate with, say, a RFID tag that is embedded in a poster, sticker, dress, exhibit etc, and you can get contextual information. For example, if you walk pass a movie poster and flash your NFC-enabled phone at the poster which has an RFID tag, you may find yourself watching the advertisement for the movie, perhaps the trailer, movie times and location, and even special promotions linked to the movie.

The next use is probably more cool and fun for mobile phone owners. It can act in peer-to-peer mode, so two mobile phones can actually interact with one another. Think about it, you can even pay your portion of the expensive dinner to your friend by just tapping your two phones together! No cash, no extra weight from the coins, just your phone (and perhaps some form of simple authorisation).

If you have a cool music track that you would like to share with your friend, just tap both phones to share! Have an amazingly wallpaper that you want to share? Just tap both phones! This is the power of NFC that makes it happen.

But.. is it safe to use NFC?

Personally, my top concern about NFC is the security part of it. Since I will be using NFC to handle wireless payments and other transactions involving highly sensitive personal data, how would I know whether my sensitive information will be vulnerable to possible malicious attacks?

How do I know my credit card information is not being hijacked every time I tap or swipe my iPhone? We’ve seen the downfall of other systems that house our personal information (e.g. visa, playstation network, etc etc) and wonder whether the same thing will happen to us when we use our phones.

Ending thoughts

So, are you still thinking about how the purported NFC feature on the upcoming iPhone 5 could make this happen? In any case, NFC will have a place in the future of information exchange. Are you excited? I am. Even if the eventual iPhone 5 does not turn up with NFC in it, there is always the Samsung Android phone that will come with NFC. Perhaps, I will, for a start, pay for my cheaper (lower risk) McDonalds’ meal with a gentle tap on the reader at the order counter, and check whether my credit card bill turn out in order – before I slowly embark on a journey towards making that $5,000 purchase with NFC.

If you are as excited as me, maybe you can also visit http://www.gemalto.com/nfc/myths.html for a list of myths that consumers like us may been confronted with.

Happy tapping!

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