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iPhone still not at home to NFC - yet

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Despite the rumours and patent filings Apple's new iPhone doesn't feature Near Field Communications capability, though next year's model probably will.

NFC would fit well with iTunes - designed to facilitate payments by tap, it can also be used to pair devices; and Apple has been hoovering up intellectual property in the area including NFC ticketing and living-room remote controls. But the latter will need an upgrade to Apple TV while the former would be too much of a leap for a company that prefers doing things better than to doing them first.

Not that Apple TV isn't overdue an upgrade, and many expected to see some sort of iOS-based TV product on Monday's stage, but it seems we'll have to wait a while before we see the iPhone's OS on a TV screen. When that time comes it will certainly include NFC functionality, ready to interact with an NFC-equipped iPhone this time next year - once everyone else has tested the technology properly.

Not that the existing iPhone is being ignored during testing; Visa and US Bank will be running trials of an iPhone case with in-built NFC this year, enabling Apple to sit back and watch the implementation issues getting resolved before committing itself to the market.

Assuming those trials aren't a complete disaster then NFC could be slipped into an Apple TV product, as espoused by Apple's patents covering how NFC could enable the living room of the future.

"A television may have a display for television video and speakers for television audio, but sharing the display or speakers with another device may involve a complicated or unintuitive process.

"With the techniques disclosed below, a user may share resources from many electronic devices... initiated in a simplified manner; to use the resources of one device on another, the user may simply tap the two devices together."

The pictures accompanying that patent show the NFC Forum logo on what looks like an iPhone, but also on what's clearly an Apple TV remote control - after all, you wouldn't want to have to lean down to your Apple TV to pair it with your iPhone.

NFC's problem has always been the lack of killer application - something that will get punters asking for it and companies making money from it. Wireless ticketing and instant remote-control pairing are both nice things, but neither is compelling enough to be the killer application, and arguments that NFC doesn't need one have been proved baseless.

We've argued before that Apple hasn't the nerve to take the first steps towards NFC, but if this year's trials can iron out the technical issues, and ensure public acceptance, then next year Apple can start doing what it does best - making existing technologies popular. ®

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