Ever since the announcement of the new iPhone, much has been written (and advertised) about NFC being left out in the cold. First there were the outrage articles, declaring that Apple is out of touch and only snubbing NFC to push their Passbook application. Opposing articles then appeared talking about utility over technology, about how NFC is just not ready yet and even about Apple simply wanting a thinner phone.
And while I obviously agree with the latter camp, they’re all missing the point. Apple didn’t just not put NFC in this version. I don’t think they will (or should) put it in any version of the iPhone. Simply put, NFC is a step backward from where the app ecosystem already is. Taking my phone out of my pocket to pay is just as forward thinking as taking my wallet out. Bumping phones with someone to share a photo is about as innovative as hitting the share button in the photo gallery.
The future isn’t about taking our phones out to do stuff. It’s about them never leaving our pockets. Right now (not in the future), you can use your phone to pay by simply walking up and saying your name. No NFC required. You can make dinner reservations by talking to your robot assistant. You can share playlists and albums with friends just by listening to them. And, if you really, really want to bump phones, there’s an app for you too, NFC-free.
Apple (or anyone for that matter) doesn’t need to add a new technology to enable the future of payments and sharing. That future is already being invented with wi-fi and cellular data and is way better than anything that could be done with NFC. NFC, in fact, is the antithesis of the Internet. Near-field vs. any field. Touching my phone to the counter vs. ordering from anywhere. Companies implementing this sort of backwards-thinking technology shouldn’t be celebrated. They should be chastised for implementing tech that essentially leaves us no better off than when we started.