AAPL and NFC
With the upcoming announcement of iOS 7 in June at Apple’s WWDC conference, industry analysts can’t agree on whether Apple will include NFC (near field communication) technology into their phones. For those not in the ‘know’, NFC is the collective term used for the technology used in contactless payment cards which other phone manufacturers have included in their handsets for the last year or two.
The technology combined with the smart phones was widely tipped to be the death knell of the physical wallet, but little has progressed since Google unveiled the NFC cladded Nexus S in 2010. Rather than become the new ‘Jetson’ style wonder payment system, it’s become a seemingly backward way of exchanging files. For years we have been carefully eliminating the need for phyiscal interaction between hardware, and the ‘next big feature’ for mobile requires users to tap their phones together? I don’t buy it – and it seems that I’m not alone.
This isn’t entirely the fault of the phone manufacturers, but also due to lack of investment from the traditional payment companies and lack of interest from the general public. Let’s not even mention the swarms of security buzzards picking away at the technology.
The unspoken opinion from everyone who is active or interested in this space seems to be: ‘Let’s see what Apple come up with’. Apple have a track record of poking into random business sectors and doing something innovative – and they are doing it right under our noses. Visit an Apple Store and try and pay for something at a cash register, or use your Apple Store app to purchase something without talking to a soul. Apple will undoubtably do something in the mobile wallet area, but at the same time suggest a way to revitalise the IRL shopping experience.
I’ll take our beloved Jessops as an example. If they were to ‘Apple-ise’ their stores and do away with the till, those staff could be easily trained to operate a portrait photo service in store where the till desk used to be. Either directly generating more revenue from professionals needing a smug mug shot for LinkedIn, or indirectly by facebookers to have a ‘fab new snap’ for their profile pictures (who’ll maybe buy an SD card in the process).
This type of thinking could rejuvenate the shopping experience, giving retailers a kick to reinvent the shopping experience, ultimately playing a part in saving the humble high street store. You can can see it today at your local Apple Store, where no two devices are forced to ‘bump’ in order to buy things.
If Apple did contribute these wonders to our high street, I would imagine it would come at a price. You are currently able to buy things in Apple stores using your AppleID, and I would expect that an Apple payment system would rely on users having an AppleID. Of course this would give Apple a massive insight into our shopping habits, and if they follow the same route as they have with in-app purchasing, would expect a handling fee for their trouble.