Apple patents NFC alternative

Apple was today awarded a patent for a technology that performs a similar role to NFC: allowing two devices to be quickly paired simply by holding them close to each other.

The fact that the iPhone 5 did not come with NFC was a surprise to some, especially given the technology’s prevalence in the type of high end Android smartphones with with Apple’s device is competing. But that could be because Apple wants to use its own alternative – and perhaps it will be the method outlined in this new patent.

The system works by using magnetic fields and the compass in the iPhone (or whatever mobile device is used). A magnetic signature – sort of like a fingerprint – from the mobile device’s compass output is monitored by an external device, and if it’s the correct type the two devices will begin communicating. This could be used to set up a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi pairing, or perhaps to initiate a contactless payment.

Apple seems happy to continue making phones and other mobile devices without NFC or an alternative for now (we wouldn’t expect to see the tech described in the patent for some time). The iPhone 5 does have Passbook, which lets you aggregate tickets and coupons easily on the device without needing to physically carry pieces of paper around, but currently it’s limited when it comes to letting you actually buy things.

While e-wallet services are a very new concept at the moment, and thus not particularly well-known, Apple could be stocking up this patent for future use should the idea become mainstream in the future.

Do you think Apple should bite the bullet and feature NFC on its next mobile phone? Let us know below.

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