Apple patent highlights NFC tech

A newly uncovered Apple patent shows that the iPhone 5 is likely to have NFC functionality.

NFC, near field communication, is a feature that enables users to tap their phones with other NFC phones or with another third-party gadget in order to unlock content.

This Apple patent shows users being able to use their iPhone to connect to an Apple TV, video game console, speaker system, and more.

It basically would turn a phone – potentially the iPhone 5 – into a universal remote control, with functionality that could continue to be expanded.

Of course, it would also enable the iPhone to be a mobile credit card, something that mobile payment platforms would appreciate since it will bring the feature to the attention of millions of consumers.

The technology is the same as many current credit cards, each of which uses a different name.

For Visa, it’s Paywave; for Discover, it’s Discover Zip; Mastercard calls it Paywave; and American Express uses the moniker Express Pay.

However, the same chips that power those cards are soon to be introduced to smartphones in the US – including Nokia’s upcoming N9 phone – which could be the biggest advancement in point-of-sale payments since the introduction of credit cards.

There’s potential for specialized third-party apps, new methods of payment, and and remote sales where traditional credit card terminals aren’t feasible.

Some of the ideas for NFC apps include letting users automatically split payments between multiple credit cards, getting instant, detailed transaction info, and billing your mobile carrier instead of a credit card provider.

There are other uses for NFC down the road as well, like letting customers wave their phones to “check-in” to a store and receive discounts, using smartphones as virtual hotel keys, and allowing multiple NFC phone owners to interact with each other.