Blog from: 06 October 2014

Apple: iPhone 6 with NFC inside – a good message

Author: Corey Wilson, Senior Director, Global Business Development New Markets / Consumer Experience (CX)

 

Many people were watching very closely on 9 September 2014, when Apple introduced the new products the consumer world was waiting for: Apple Pay, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+, and the Apple Watch. There was one great message in these announcements for us in the RFID industry, for marketers, and retailers: Apple has incorporated NFC in the iPhone 6.

 

Incorporating NFC into smartphones is not exactly an innovation – the likes of Blackberry, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft/Nokia, Motorola, Samsung and Sony have done that before. Yet there has been no final breakthrough for NFC application-wise. At least in part, this was due to the fact that iPhone users were left out. Particularly in the world of brands and their marketing agencies this has slowed down the deployment of NFC. In turn, Apple’s new commitment to NFC and its virtually unlimited range of applications and use cases will give several key markets a strong boost.

 

However, for now, the NFC chip inside the new iPhone 6 smartphones is restricted to Apple Pay. According to Apple’s announcement, it has partnered with American Express, MasterCard and Visa, and banks that issue those cards, to allow iPhone users to store their credit card accounts in Apple Pay. That means if you have one of those cards from one of the issuing banks, you will be able to use Apple Pay at some 220,000 merchant locations in the United States that already take mobile payments via NFC.

 

According to the latest iOS 8 documentation, there is no open access to the NFC controller. Also, there are currently no NFC Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in the iOS 8 Software Development Kit (SDK), which indicates that NFC capabilities will be restricted to Apple Pay at launch.

 

The NFC reader IC indicates that the iPhone 6 could be capable of these additional tasks, but the documentation for iOS 8 confirms that, right now, there's no access for developers to use the feature.

 

But that’s not to say that NFC will be locked down forever. If Apple were to update iOS8 with broader NFC access for third-party developers, some very interesting applications could be realized using the existing hardware. Developers have been very creative with NFC-equipped Android devices, and have come up with some very cool features — especially involving the automation app Tasker — and it would be silly to exclude NFC from one of Apple’s biggest strengths: its large and creative developer community.  

 

Industry experts suspect third-party apps for the NFC chip are merely a matter of time. History shows that Apple has kept several features restricted, but then opened them up to third-party developers to enhance the bouquet of apps and customer experience, current examples being Touch ID and iOS8

 

With more than a billion NFC-enabled mobile devices in use by 2015 globally, Apple’s adoption of NFC makes it omnipresent on the major smartphone platforms. Ongoing support from industry leaders in consumer electronics, financial services, semiconductors, transportation and mobile app development are already contributing to a thriving ecosystem.

 

Based on our expertise, footprint and long-term NFC experience, we expect the following sectors of the NFC market to thrive specifically:

 

Brands and Retailers:

  • The Apple community is well known by brands and retailers for their willingness to spend money for high-value brand items and a superior user experience. For that reason, we’ll see increased demand by our major retail and brand customers as well as NFC proximity-marketing partners.
  • We also see another opportunity emerging: fitness and healthcare wearable devices are a megatrend, and are ideally suited to be NFC-tagged to create new consumer experiences and benefits. Compared to the alternative proximity marketing technologies such as Bluetooth Low Energy beacons, NFC provides a superior user experience and avoids potential issues with consumer privacy and location-based advertising spam.
  • NFC offers endless opportunities for marketing, campaigns, promotions, discounts and customer loyalty or membership benefits. With NFC tags integrated into their products, brands and retailers can better keep in touch with their customers over the complete product lifetime.

 

Electronics Pairing and Games Industry

  • Users will benefit significantly as accessories such as speakers, headsets and wearable electronics will become more simple to use and easier to connect via NFC.
  • Smart-home initiatives will see significant opportunities arising, as most of the device market now supports NFC, which can be embedded inside sensors and switches.
  • When it comes to mobile gaming, developers have been using Apple’s iOS as a leading platform for years. Apple devices with NFC functionality will drive innovations to new mobile gaming platforms, where the physical world’s objects such as toys, 3D figures and collectable cards can be now connected as part of the gaming experience. This is ‘The Next Big Thing’ in mobile gaming.

 

Government

  • In the Government segment there is a strong and growing demand for secure mobile authentication and identification applications.
  • NFC is a valid enabler in the fields of track and trace applications, or mobile eID verification, since it provides the necessary reader infrastructure for both citizens and eGovernment and eBusiness service providers.
  • With Apple as one of the leading mobile device suppliers, this infrastructure will receive significantly more impetus to further integrate secure ID transactions into everybody’s daily life in the future.

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