The Near Field Communication chip used in many mobile wallets was conspicuous by its absence during Apple Inc.'s unveiling of the iPhone 5.
Despite that payments technology lacking in the next generation of Apple smartphones, Scott Forstall, Apple senior vice president of iOS Software at Apple, did highlight some aspects of the company's Passbook application, which will store cards, coupons and tickets on the iPhone 5.
Passbook, much like the mobile-payment apps from Starbucks or SCVNGR's LevelUp, displays two-dimensional bar codes associated with cards linked to the account. Passbook is so far focused on boarding passes and loyalty cards instead of payments.
Some facets of Passbook nevertheless seem to improve upon existing mobile wallets, particularly Passbook's integration with the lock screen — if the consumer has the phone locked the bar code remains on the lock screen for easy access.
By contrast, many NFC-based mobile wallets require users to first unlock the phone, then unlock a separate app.
With the mounting patents for its iWallet and iTravel applications, Apple continues to appear poised for a payments function in the future.
Another payments aspect was touched on during the presentation, as Apple CEO Tim Cook mentioned that the new iCloud application allows consumers to make iTunes purchases from any Apple device.
Apple does not need to use NFC to build out its eventual payments system, experts say.
"While I believe NFC is the best way to connect a phone with an acceptance point quickly, reliably and securely, it's just another presentation format — all of which have established benefits," industry analyst Todd Ablowitz, president of Centennial, Colo.-based Double Diamond Group, LLC, writes in his blog. "Cloud-based mobile payments are firmly established and last year's momentum continues. This delay doesn't slow current advances."
Prior to the event, last-minute rumors speculated that the iPhone 5 would have an NFC chip because evaluation tests for iOS 6 and the iPhone 5 indicated an NFC element.
That, apparently, waits for another day.