At first we hoped the iPhone 5 would have NFC technology, then we were told Apple wasn’t considering NFC yet. Now it appears that the next iPhone will in fact have NFC technology for mobile payments.

Multiple reports from sources like The New York Times and China Times reveal that Apple is working hard to implement NFC into the iPhone. Near Field Communication technology would allow consumers to use the iPhone as a mobile payment option, and the technology would most likely tie into the already-existing iTunes payment infrastructure.

From The New York Times,

“According to two people with knowledge of the inner workings of a coming iteration of the Apple iPhone — although not necessarily the next one — a chip made by Qualcomm for the phone’s processor will also include near-field communication technology, known as N.F.C. This technology enables short-range wireless communications between the phone and an N.F.C reader, and can be used to make mobile payments. It is unclear which version of an iPhone this technology would be built into.

One person familiar with the new Apple feature said the phone’s credit card information would be tied to information currently used on iTunes, which would make it simple for customers to set up the new mobile payment method on the iPhone.”

Instead of using a credit card or cash, the future implementation of NFC will allow users to pay for goods and services through an account tied to their smartphone. NYT explains that other players in the mobile sphere are planning on building NFC into their devices,

“Apple isn’t the only company trying to create a phone that can make payments. Google is also exploring adding N.F.C. payment methods to the Google Android platform, according to a Google employee who asked not to be named because company employees are not allowed to speak publicly about unannounced features and products.”

This New York Times report does not claim that the iPhone 5 will definitively NFC. However, the China Times claims that the iPhone 5 has entered the trial production stage, and that the next iPhone will have NFC.

From a rough Google Translate of the China Times report,

“It is understood, iPhone 5 equipped with “induction pay” (wave and pay) technology, into the “Near Field Communication” (Near-Field Communication) technology, which includes financial account information and can link with a specific device, a new generation “electronic wallet” of the business.”

If the iPhone 5 does end up having NFC, it will be very interesting to see how Apple approaches a technology that is relatively untapped in the mobile market. A tie with the iTunes payment system is a no-brainer. Apple already has a sophisticated backend established with customers for managing money transactions.

There are already NFC-like abilities that certain companies have enabled on the iPhone. For instance, you can use an app to pay for your drink at Starbucks.

While these current app payment methods are different on a case-by-case basis, none of them actually use NFC technology. If implemented, NFC would become the standard for mobile payment. And a more unified experience among apps is definetley a good thing.

It will be interesting to see what Apple ends up doing with NFC. Do you think we’ll see an NFC-enabled iPhone 5 this summer?