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Rumor: NFC chip spotted in photos of purported next-gen iPhone front assembly

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
New images thought to be of the front assembly for Apple's next-generation iPhone show a component never seen before in the company's handsets, prompting some to speculate the mystery part is a near field communication device.

It should be noted that AppleInsider cannot verify the unknown part's origin or intended use, and offers the following information solely for purposes of discussion.

The photos found on Sunday by Chinese site Apple.pro reportedly show a fully-assembled next-generation iPhone front assembly, and come from a Photobucket account that previously some of the first shots of the purported handset's front plate.

At first glance the images appear to be similar to those of a semi-assembled front panel published earlier this month, however closer inspection reveals more parts are present, including what could be a near field communication chip located next to the unit's front-facing camera. As noted by Japanese Apple blog MacOtakara, the square component covered by EMI shielding is in line with the dimensions of currently available NFC packages like NXP's 5 millimeter-by-5 millimeter solution.

In previous "leaked" photos, Apple was shown to have swapped the locations of the rumored handset's front-facing camera and IR proximity sensor, thus leaving a sizable space to the left of the earpiece.

NFC chip
Source: "meme_168's" Photobucket via Apple.pro


The NFC standard uses RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to allow two electronic devices to communicate when in close proximity to each other. A number of companies are starting to adopt the standard as a means of payment with services like Google Wallet leading the way.

By storing credit card, bank, or other digital payment information on a device, NFC can securely conduct transactions with other authorized devices. The system is already in use in countries such as Japan, but has yet to gain footing in the U.S.

NFC chip


Apple's intentions to utilize NFC are murky at best, but rumors have persisted that the company is looking to integrate NFC payments into the iPhone sometime soon. Fueling speculation is the upcoming Passbook app, slated to make its debut when iOS 6 rolls out this fall. On launch, the program is not expected to have transaction capabilities, and will be limited to storing data for tickets, store membership cards, and airplane boarding passes. That could change, however, if and when Apple decides to enter the mobile payment market. With millions of installed credit card holders already using iTunes, the company stands to make a significant impact if it chooses to link the online media store with an NFC solution.

While the Apple remains mum on Passbook's future, CEO Tim Cook said during the company's conference call for the third fiscal quarter of 2012 that the app is a "very key feature" in iOS, but declined to elaborate.

Front Assembly


Also making an appearance in Sunday's photos were the previously reported protective display shielding as well as an installed home button and camera.

Apple is widely expected to unveil the sixth-generation iPhone on Sept. 12, with a U.S. release to follow on Sept. 21. Adding further evidence to the launch date rumors are alleged Verizon and AT&T employee vacation blackout dates scheduled between Sept. 21 and Sept. 30.
post #2 of 28

Will this work in the UK when it's released ?

post #3 of 28

My only hope is that you can add any VISA or Mastercard by just typing in your card number and attaching the info!

post #4 of 28

Look at the top right of the chip, just behind it.  You can see the edge of a wide+narrow something set into the assembly.  Previous photos showed a hole in this location right up the the paint on the back of glass.  Is this the fingerprint sensor?  Perhaps hooked up directly to the NFC chip for added security?  It seems to be the right dimensions, if you imagine it extending under the chip.

post #5 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rainbowofbeans View Post

My only hope is that you can add any VISA or Mastercard by just typing in your card number and attaching the info!

Why? People already have their cards registered with iTunes. It would be easier to give, let's say passbook, the permission to use iTunes as a means of payment. All it needs is ones verification to start with.

post #6 of 28

A 10 year old NFC chip? Would they not instead use http://www.nxp.com/packages/SOT617-9.html?

 

NP

post #7 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by bluefish86 View Post

Look at the top right of the chip, just behind it.  You can see the edge of a wide+narrow something set into the assembly.  Previous photos showed a hole in this location right up the the paint on the back of glass.  Is this the fingerprint sensor?  Perhaps hooked up directly to the NFC chip for added security?  It seems to be the right dimensions, if you imagine it extending under the chip.

 

Interesting idea, but I think the odds are against it.  They probably haven't had time to integrate the fingerprint scanner yet and we don't' know for sure they are going to use it either.  

 

Also, it's pretty much the worst location you could pick on the phone for a fingerprint scanner (at the top right by the camera lens), and the headphone jack was relocated to the bottom primarily so this sensor could be included.  It would have made more sense to leave the jack at the top and put this sensor at the bottom if it was for fingerprints.  Having the NFC sensor on the "pointing end" of the phone makes a lot more sense however.    

 

The only thing that gives me pause is that this sensor looks about ten times larger than I would have expected.  I thought NFC was supposed to be tiny?  This thing is rather large.

post #8 of 28

FFFUUUU...the design is really growing on me, but NFC is shit. Bluetooth 4.0 LE is where it's at!

 

 


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Tim Cook using Galaxy Tabs as frisbees

 

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post #9 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by bluefish86 View Post

Look at the top right of the chip, just behind it.  You can see the edge of a wide+narrow something set into the assembly.  Previous photos showed a hole in this location right up the the paint on the back of glass.  Is this the fingerprint sensor?  Perhaps hooked up directly to the NFC chip for added security?  It seems to be the right dimensions, if you imagine it extending under the chip.

I'm going with finger print sensor also. It almost looks like there is a protective peel off membrane in the center of the square area. More so most of these sorts of sensors are in fact square. As for near field communications that would be a tiny chip possibly with an antenna near by.
post #10 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

...and the headphone jack was relocated to the bottom primarily so this sensor could be included. 

 

And to support adaptors for the new docking port.

post #11 of 28

I've read elsewhere that quite a few people think NFC is a gimmick. There are, however, millions of people in Japan that would tend to disagree... 

post #12 of 28

IF it is a fingerprint reader I think it could be in the perfect location assuming the scanner is on the rear of the phone and you are right handed... If you hold your iPhone 4/4s like Steve told you not to, then place your index finger directly below the current headphone jack, there is very minimal effort required to "scan" it. Something apple would insist upon. But that's just my opinion... It might be trickier for lefties tho...

post #13 of 28

If the scanner is on the front, it's still not that hard to scan your print under the current headphone jack although placing it on the bottom would make more sense to me in that case.

post #14 of 28

 

Here's a pic from a youtube video showing the supposed iPhone 5 backplate with a possible "cut-out" location in the same spot as this chip...

Here's a link to original video here: http://youtu.be/8XY841RAY4Y
 

post #15 of 28

 

One more... A pic of the front with a small unusual cut-out in that exact location... None of this is assured and is just a guess in my opinion as all these leaked photos could be iPhoneys. They're just things I've noticed while following all the rumors.

post #16 of 28

You can edit posts after the fact (pencil button in the lower right) if you have more things to add on the same topic. Cheers!

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Originally Posted by asdasd

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post #17 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

You can edit posts after the fact (pencil button in the lower right) if you have more things to add on the same topic. Cheers!


Thanx for the tip and sorry I missed that button (i did look for it...). I'm a newbie here...

post #18 of 28

Hint:  That is not a NFC chip nor is Apple utilizing NFC for their mobile payment strategy; however, the chip in question is new and the primary use is for mobile payments.

 
 
post #19 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacBook Pro View Post

Hint:  That is not a NFC chip nor is Apple utilizing NFC for their mobile payment strategy; however, the chip in question is new and the primary use is for mobile payments.

 
 

Why is it so big compared to common NFC chips?

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post #20 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Why is it so big compared to common NFC chips?

 

If our speculation pans out... it would have extra work to do with respect to securely storing payment card info and the fingerprint reader.  It would make sense to have them all in one chip, that way even with the full system compromised by hypothetical malware, your "card" data is safe.  Design it such that once payment data is programmed in, the phone can never request it back from the chip, period.  All the chip will do is allow the negotiation of one payment per finger scan via NFC. 

 

btw thank you boozie, those are exactly the pictures I was thinking of.

post #21 of 28

Praze de Lawd... dis be de iPhone I wuz waitin' fo.

post #22 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by bluefish86 View Post

 

If our speculation pans out... it would have extra work to do with respect to securely storing payment card info and the fingerprint reader.  It would make sense to have them all in one chip, that way even with the full system compromised by hypothetical malware, your "card" data is safe.  Design it such that once payment data is programmed in, the phone can never request it back from the chip, period.  All the chip will do is allow the negotiation of one payment per finger scan via NFC. 

 

btw thank you boozie, those are exactly the pictures I was thinking of.

 

The package depicted in the image is the Authentec 2750 "smart sensor" as alluded to here.  Notice the area forward of the unidentified package is wide and short, likely matching the dimensions of the "smart sensor" (13.5mm x 3.0mm).  The front face of the image depicts an unusually rough surface on the right side of the device (as the device faces the user) directly over the presumed "smart sensor" which would explain the modification to the front (FaceTime) camera placement.  One of the key marketing points of Authentec's "smart sensors" is their ability to use highly durable materials to protect the sensor array.  In fact, the "ultra-hard surface coating offers >9H scratch hardness for >10 million rubs."  (1)
 
According to a press release in May 2012, "The AES2750 is available now in an over molded 19-ball BGA and in production volumes."  (1)  Due to the ongoing negotiations with Apple, someone could be forgiven for assuming the press release to be a negotiating tactic.
 
Apple has carefully detailed their patents for iWallet (and iWallet Parental Controls) and iTravel to include not only NFC but Bluetooth as well.  Further fueling the speculation that Apple may prefer Buetooth 4.0 rather than NFC (near field communications), Apple joined the board of directors of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group in 2011.  The failure of Google Wallet to energize and invigorate the mobile payment market adds further evidence that NFC may not be the right technology for mobile payments.  If Apple were to enable the acceptance of mobile payments via Bluetooth 4.0 on the new iPad and the iPhone 4S they would instantly have millions of deployments of mobile payment-ready devices with many retailers already using Apple devices as a retail point-of-sale system including Lowe's, Old Navy, and many others.
 
 
1.  Brent Dietz.  Published 8 May 2012.  AuthenTec, Inc.: AuthenTec Introduces New Fingerprint Sensor Targeted for Secure Mobile Payment Transactions.  4-traders.  Retrieved 27 August 2012.
 
post #23 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by jay-t View Post
Why? People already have their cards registered with iTunes. It would be easier to give, let's say passbook, the permission to use iTunes as a means of payment. All it needs is ones verification to start with.

 

Some of us have more than one credit card and may use a different card depending on the merchant. Also, some credit cards give more cash/points/miles back on certain categories of purchases; this is based on the merchant type, which would likely be masked with iTunes as an intermediary.

 

Merchants have a credit card processing agreement with a bank. This probably wouldn't include iTunes as a method of payment, at least at first.

 

But sure, Passbook would be the logical interface here. It could contain one or more virtual credit cards, and iTunes payments could be another option for some merchants.

post #24 of 28
This isn't news... Blackberry had NFC in it's smartphones first...What is news is that the next version of iTunes will have to manage payments that we will make with our iPhones. And that'll be a painful experience unless they build it into Passbook on the phone... Surprisingly I think they'll just put Passbook on the iTunes Sidebar whenever the phone is plugged in.
post #25 of 28
(Continuation of post)

And put passbook credit card and payment options in the settings app.
post #26 of 28
It would be really nice to be able to use NFC or Bluetooth to make purchases. The user would have multiple credit cards available that they have programmed and can just select one and scan their finger to authenticate the purchase. It would also be nice to use fingerprint instead of typing in your password every time on iTunes and the app store. But I'm not sure fingerprint scanner tech will be on the new iPhone. It seems like it was too rushed
post #27 of 28

The Japanese have been paying for things with their phones for years, so I hope this is true. If it is however, it will need to work with the existing JP standards - Suica and Pasmo.

post #28 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Timbit View Post

It would be really nice to be able to use NFC or Bluetooth to make purchases. The user would have multiple credit cards available that they have programmed and can just select one and scan their finger to authenticate the purchase. It would also be nice to use fingerprint instead of typing in your password every time on iTunes and the app store. But I'm not sure fingerprint scanner tech will be on the new iPhone. It seems like it was too rushed

 

Although the decision seems rushed, the decision was not.
 
Apple has several patent applications (which were only recently approved) related to mobile payments dating back to at least 2008; including the so-called "iTravel" patent (filed in 3Q2008) and the so-called "iWallet" patent (filed in 1Q2009).
 
The reason the decision seems too quick is because Apple wanted a non-exclusive, (potentially) perpetual, world-wide license for AuthenTec's AES2750 fingerprint sensor but the price was higher than Apple was willing to pay after several rounds of negotiation.  Apple had already paid AuthenTec $27.5 million for the non-exclusive license as well as another $7.5 for one-time engineering services.  "... According to the filing, AuthenTec first began floating a new technology to "several leading consumer electronics companies," likely including its existing component customers Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Fujitsu, HBO, HP, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Orange, Samsung, Sky, and Texas Instruments... "  "... Negotiations between AuthenTec and Apple began in February 2012 and initially involved a licensing agreement that attempted to hammer out how much of its Intellectual Property AuthenTec would make available to Apple, and how much of its engineering resources would be devoted to developing the technology to fit Apple's needs..." - from previous AppleInsider articles
 
In fact, the object many claim is a NFC chip is not a NFC chip.  The object is almost certainly the AuthenTec AES2750 which is obvious if consideration is given to both the odd "cut-out" (as some describe the appearance) of a short, narrow area on the front of the new iPhone as well as the odd rough surface (rather than Gorilla Glass like the rest of the front surface) placed directly over the odd "cut-out."  An embedded fingerprint scanner on the top right front surface of the new iPhone also explains the need to move the headphone jack and the FaceTime camera.
 
 
 
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