Patents recently granted to Apple add further evidence that it will include a near-field communication (NFC) chip in the next iPhone, which for now people are generally calling the iPhone 5.
NFC allows quick and simple cashless payments, as used by London’s Oyster travelcard, Barclaycard and in a few newer smartphones. The additional twist in Apple’s proposed system is to use NFC for sending “gifts” from one iPhone to another.
According to an article in the International Business Times, citing Patentlyapple.com, it could also be another way for people to give digital media files as a present without running into thorny copyright infringement problems or technical difficulties with copy protection systems such as DRM (digital rights management).
The buzzphrase for this is “social gifting”. Amazon already has a feature for users to give a specific Kindle e-book as a present, much like a physical book, although this is not yet available in the UK.
For a while Apple has included an option to gift an iTunes item to a friend, but it is not a face-to-face transaction. Apple will almost certainly use the iTunes store for managing what content people want to transfer between them using the NFC transaction, whether it’s movies, music, TV shows, audiobooks, games or apps.
The International Business Times adds that, “The patent allows for multiple gifts to be sent in a single transaction, as well as certain customisation options for the gifts – including voice greetings and custom gift images, likely to conceal the gift's identity before the recipient opens it.”
Apple already has a new patent for the iWallet framework to manage personal cashless payments and now it looks as if it’s putting extra elements in place for users to buy iTunes products and almost literally hand them to someone else.
Transferring digital media from one user to another without upsetting the rights owners is a legal headache for any media corporation and online retailer. Recent reports suggest that people are being prevented from selling on “digital copy” codes through eBay that come with DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, even if the codes have not been redeemed.
It goes to show that in the digital realm, there isn’t really such a thing as a second hand store.
Images from Patentlyapple.com and Apple Inc.