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Apple has locked down the near-field communication (NFC) chip in its new iPhones and Watch to work only with its Apple Pay mobile payments system. At its press event last week, the tech giant talked about using NFC-equipped iPhone 6’s and Watches for flight and hotel check-ins, but those features will apparently show up later.
Near-field communication will allow users of the new Apple devices to tap a retailer’s point-of-sale surface to pay for a product or service. After an iPhone 6 user authorizes the purchase, the chip inside the phone sends a short burst of payment data to the terminal, then the terminal sends a burst back updating the user’s credit card account.
The NFC chip can be used for all sorts of cool things, not just mobile payments — for instance, immediately pairing two devices, like the Apple Watch and wireless headphones. Or it could be used to quickly share documents between two NFC-equipped phones.
Similarly, the Touch ID fingerprint reader in Apple phones could have been used for a variety of applications, but Apple locked that feature down to Apple-centric tasks like unlocking the phone and authorizing purchases from iTunes.
Of course, this all applies to the first generations of Apple’s NFC-equipped products. It’s likely that Apple engineers will leverage more of the technology’s full potential in future releases.
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