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NFC Coming To iPad, iPhone And McDonalds

David Gilbert


NFC Coming To iPad, iPhone And McDonalds

Near Field Communication (NFC) is coming and its going to be everywhere. There is no doubt about it and a couple of reports today suggest that 2011 could be the year where it takes off in a big way in the US and the UK.

Reports today suggest that Apple will build NFC technology into the next generation of its mobile products. That means that the iPad 2 and the iPhone 5 could well allow users to swipe the devices at compatible retail outlet and do away for the need for cash. Analyst Richard Doherty told Bloomberg he was told by engineers working on the hardware that the technology was going to be built into the new products.

In December we saw the first phone to be introduced with NFC in the form of the Nexus S from Google. At the time we suggested that most smartphones from then on would include the technology and while some of the phones we saw at CES in Vegas recently didn’t have it, this report would again suggest that NFC will become a widespread technology. The inclusion of NFC with Apple’s devices should allow for seamless integration with its iTunes accounts which already have users credit card details on record. Though that might not necessarily be a good thing.

Of course having devices with NFC will be completely pointless if there is nowhere it can be used. The most high profile use of NFC at the moment is here in London with the Oystercard travel pass and yesterday we learned that another major outlet will soon be opened up for NFC transactions. McDonald’s announced that it would introduce contactless payment options at all 1,200 of its outlets in the UK by this summer. In conjunction with Visa, McDonald’s will allow diners to pay for their meals up to a value of £15 by waving their credit card at the till. Of course the next step is for Visa to introduce an Android and iOS app to allow Nexus S and iPhone 5 owners to use their phones to do the same thing.

Source: Bloomberg

ronesh amin

January 25, 2011, 5:09 pm

Not too sure about this. Take for example the iPhone 5 (if it has NFC tech)- will the device have to be unlocked for the payment to go through or would you have to manually unlock your phone each time you want to make a payment (or open the NFC app and choose which payment you have to make)? If this is the case, I can imagine Londeners rushing to catch a tube not being very happy with a long line of people playing with their phones next to the gates. If it's a speedy process (like the use of an oystercard), I'm all for it. But I can't see Apple being too happy with NFC payments going through with the phone in it's standby mode, as they will see it as a security flaw (which it could potentially be).

I could be wrong about all this as I don't quite understand the mechanics of how it will be integrated into phones yet (we'll soon find out with the Nexus phone I guess).


January 25, 2011, 7:48 pm

@ronesh - I have the same questions, I assume since the main push for it is "convenience" that its a passive payment (i.e. swipe) however I can see a large amount of issues with this....

An Oyster card is quite specific in that it only pays for train tickets, but if the iPhone can pay for several items (i.e train tickets, burger) of various amounts I can see that being a large potential for scammers, i.e. people walking around with scanners picking up NFC phones and passively charging a payment or even when you hand your phone over for repairs!


January 25, 2011, 8:35 pm

it will definately be a system where you have to select which payment from a list of options and then use it to pay rater than be passive and giving out all your info all the time, if only to save (albeit a tiny amount of) battery.

the other problem is that the nexus s' NFC is recieve only, meaning it cannot be used for any type of 'sending' payment information (firmware update?) if this is the case for the iphone 5/other phones, then I suspect the NFC funcion will be for 'interactive adverts' only for now

Arctic Fox

January 25, 2011, 8:40 pm

@ronesh and Stelph

I have to say that I agree. This, if how it is implemented is not thought out _very_ carefully, bids fair to be a security and organisational nightmare of the first water. Since such transfers _must_ require active confirmation on the part of the person transferring the funds the phone cannot be in standby mode when the payment is made. If the phone is in such a condition it is about as sensible as an open handbag or wallet hanging out of your back pocket. If however you do have to fire up the phone from standby and then authorise the payment the queues in many cases will be humungous and _very_ bad tempered. This sounds potentially like a technology looking for a need rather than the need driving the development of the technology.


January 25, 2011, 9:23 pm

The Octopus card used in Hong Kong (similar to Oyster, I think from the same company) can be used in pubs, the MTR (metro), convenience stores, buses, trams. Almost anything which you would pay for with "small" change. Works very well and means a lack of shrapnel. If there is some form of maximum payment per transaction set by the user I can't see the problem.


January 25, 2011, 10:43 pm

It's hard to see how this could be safer and more convenient than a normal Chip & PIN transaction - but hopefully we wont have to wait too long to see what is being cooked up here.

I'm a little sceptical regarding the security of RF Proximity card technology - following the well publicised breaches with Mifare cards a couple of years ago (BTW - Mifare is the tech used in Oyster cards).


January 25, 2011, 11:59 pm

Agreed that security is a concern. I'm sure the big companies behind this will have thought of this too, so it will be interesting to see what they do to placate these concerns.

Of more interest to me though, is that it's clear from the comments posted here, that almost none of us really know what NFC actually is, or how it works. And we're supposed to be a bunch of geeks!


January 26, 2011, 12:34 pm

Wasn't the Nokia C7 the first handset with an NFC chip or am I off base?

Billy Bean

January 27, 2011, 11:46 pm

NFC is just technology overload. Why can't I just use my fingerprint to ID myself, and then select from the presumably already identified bank accounts I hold (or maybe I've set a default bank account) ?? Maybe I could have a different bank account on each finger ! It works fine to log in to my laptop, and less likely to get stolen too, though sadly I guess not impossible...

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