Apple has today filed a major patent that sees the company stamp its name on technology that allows users to pay for items using an embedded, contactless payment-enabled, near-field communications (NFC) chip.
A figure from Apple's new mobile-wallet patent.
(Credit: Patently Apple)
First reported by the Patently Apple blog, the new patent demonstrates the position of an embedded NFC-payment chip in the iPhone, and a tab in iTunes that lists notification options for prepaid cards, upcoming payments and parental controls.
In a nutshell, an NFC-enabled iPhone would allow users to make purchases using different types of payment cards at tens of thousands of contactless Visa and MasterCard terminals around the world.
The patent application reveals how the iPhone would handle transaction rules for different types of cards.
With a credit card, for example, the iPhone would be able to set and enforce payment rules and view statements, purchases and a graph-based account summary. Payment rules can include restricting payments from certain merchants, restricting payments outside of a specific location and restricting payments above a certain transaction amount.
According to the patent, partnering banks would store this preference information in a database to compare rules with the handset when making purchases.
This isn't definitive proof that Apple's next iPhone will have embedded NFC. Apple often patents innovations to keep its options open, or even so that it can licence them to other vendors for ongoing fees.
Apple's last iWallet patent emerged in 2010, and described a peer-to-peer payments service using mobile devices and NFC technology.
Chatter over an NFC-enabled iPhone reached a fever pitch last year, before the launch of the new iPhone, when banks and companies like PayPal all put their bets on the new device coming with the technology. When the device didn't, banks like the Commonwealth Bank decided not to wait for Apple, and released the country's first iPhone-based payments system by use of an external iCarte case.