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Leaked release shows Visa plotting NFC iPhone case

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Visa is planning an iPhone case with integrated NFC, according to an accidentally-posted press release that wasn't pulled fast enough.

The release was only online for moments, but long enough for NFC World to spot.

The announced case contains a secure element from DeviceFidelity, as well as NFC hardware, enabling users to pay with a wave of their 3G or 3GS iPhone. The system will be usable anywhere Visa's PayWave technology has been deployed.

NFC World reported on the release last night, and since then has been resisting calls from PR Newswire to take down the information which wasn't supposed to be shared just yet.

DeviceFidelity already makes a MicroSD NFC implementation, which the company reckons works in 120 models of handset. The problem with the rest is that many handsets sandwich the memory card between the battery and the motherboard, which makes it difficult to get the low-powered NFC signal out.

Some handsets have an externally-facing card slot, while others have thin batteries or non-contiguous motherboards, which help, but putting the tech into a case removes all those problems.

Very small NFC hardware

Radio, antenna and secure module, all built into a MicroSD card.

We don't know when the Visa-compatible case was supposed to be announced: Apple is expected to announce a new model of iPhone next month but there's no obvious connection between the two. Apple has considerable interest, and patents, in the application of Near Field Communications (NFC), but we'd be surprised to see the technology built into the next iPhone - though equally surprised not to see it in the model following that.

It's not the first time we've seen NFC clipped onto an iPhone, but the backing of Visa makes this a bigger deal. Visa announced in February that it would be trialling DeviceFidelity's MicroSD-card implementation, but iPhone owners are exactly the demographic that would enjoy whipping out their handset to pay for coffee, so it makes sense for Visa to ensure they're included.

We've said before that an NFC-equipped iPhone would be a really good idea, but that Apple would be reluctant to take the bold step needed. If Visa puts any weight behind this product then Apple will, no doubt, be watching carefully while planning its own NFC strategy.

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