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Apple's iPhone 5 now set to include NFC-based mobile payment system

Apple's next-generation iPhone, expected to be launched this autumn, could include a Near Field Communications (NFC) chip, allowing users to easily buy products through their smartphone, according to a new report.

9to5Mac recently analysed a hardware code dump from two new iPhone 5 prototypes and found references to an integrated NFC chip and antenna. NFC is a wireless technology that has a range of only a few inches and is compatible with the countless ID card terminals around the world, allowing for contactless payments.

The new discovery follows Apple's unveiling earlier this month of an e-wallet app for iOS 6 called Passbook, which lets users store electronic versions of things like airline boarding passes, cinema tickets, shopping vouchers, and loyalty cards. Now, there is speculation that Apple will incorporate an NFC-enabled mobile payment system into Passbook.

The feature would set the stage for Apple to compete with Google Wallet and Microsoft's recently announced NFC wallet service for Windows Phone 8. Apple could integrate with an established mobile payment service such as that used by Barclays, or handle its own payments through the many credit cards already stored on iTunes, 9to5Mac pointed out.

Also, besides replacing the plastic credit card, NFC technology would allow iPhone owners to more quickly and easily share files from one iOS device to another.

Apple has reportedly been working on NFC integration for some time. Last year, in advance of the iPhone 4S launch, there were various rumours about the technology being included in Apple's smartphone, and just as many rumours that said it would not. When the iPhone 4S was unveiled in October, NFC was nowhere to be seen.

Some forward-thinking techies are already swiping their smartphone to pay for things, but mobile payments haven't really taken off with the masses yet. However, some 65 per cent of experts surveyed earlier this year said they think most people will fully adopt mobile payments by 2020, nearly eliminating the need for cash or credit cards.

Image credit: 9to5Mac