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Dismantling code allegedly from the next iPhone 9-to-5 Mac has discovered Near Field Communications embedded in the hardware, paving the way for Apple Commerce come 2013.

The code comes from two prototype handsets 9-to-5 Mac reckons are knocking around Cuppertino in the hands of trusted developers and engineers. The rumour site has already revealed a larger screen close enough to 16:9 to show proper video, but now reports that the iPhone being launched by Apple in October will sport electronic payments using the NFC standard.

The news isn't shocking, Apple has long been interested in NFC as its patent portfolio shows (Apple has patented all sorts of applications for NFC beyond paying by bonk), not to mention various recruitments in the field, but knowing that it's coming in October will put the pressure on Google to make more of the lead it has with Google Wallet and show that Microsoft's own offering (which comes with Windows Phone 8) is not a moment too soon.

Apple's Passbook application, part of the already-announced iOS refresh, is an obvious candidate for NFC integration as it already stores tokens and boarding passes - items which transition to short-range radio very elegantly - but 9-to-5 Mac's information is lacking in the critical detail of whether Apple will be prepared to cede any control to the network operators who have to pay for the iPhones we all use.

Google lets the operators play; the current generation of Android handsets support SIM-based wallets through the SWP (Single Wire Protocol) the operators prefer, but those wallets have to exist in competition with Google's own offering. Microsoft, meanwhile, is happy to let the operators own that space and seems to be making no move to try and control the electronic wallet in Windows Phone 8.

Apple has, reportedly, been talking to banks about getting their payment cards onto the next iPhone, which would indicate that Cupertino intends to have its own wallet on the phone: so the only question is whether Apple will let the operators put a wallet on the SIM or decide to lock them out entirely as it did with ring tones, downloadable games, and music.

The operators might decide to reduce the iPhone subsidy or switch their promotional efforts to Microsoft, but one underestimates the craven nature of operators at one's peril - Apple is still the coolest kid on the block, the one everyone wants to be seen with, even if that means ceding one more market to the legacy of Steve. ®

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