Citing people familiar with Apple's plans, the Financial Times reports the company has been working with NXP on contactless mobile payment system based on near-field communication technology, possibly tied to users' iTunes accounts. According to hardware analysis firm Chipworks, NXP already has a significant presence in Apple's iOS device lineup as the Dutch chipmaker supplies the iPhone 5s' M7 motion coprocessor.
With the rumored system in place, iPhone owners would be able to store credit card and other payment information locally and simply tap the handset against compatible point of sale terminals. As credit card theft still a major problem around the world, companies like Visa and Mastercard are moving toward more secure solutions, specifically chip-and-PIN POS systems -- which happen to include support for certain NFC-based standards -- that should roll out across their respective networks by October 2015, the report says.
Apple holds a number of patents relating to NFC payments solutions and the company has long been rumored to be looking to introduce such capability in its iOS device lineup. On Thursday, a pair of reports claimed the iPhone 6 would be the first Apple device to sport an NFC chip, to be leveraged for digital wallet purposes.
It remains unclear if Apple's mobile payments plans will rely solely on NFC, though such a scenario seems unlikely given that its massive installed iOS device user base would be left out unless they upgrade to new hardware. Successfully introducing a new form of payment means wide adoption consumer adoption. One possible stopgap could be a hybrid setup using either on-board NFC or, if the user does not own a new iPhone, a combination of Bluetooth Low Energy and wireless data.
Along with digital wallet capabilities, today's report claims NXP's chip may also be used to bolster the next-generation iPhone's compatibility with the so-called "internet of things," a catchall phrase describing connected devices like health trackers to app-powered home appliances. The forthcoming iOS 8 mobile operating system bound for Apple's "iPhone 6" does include a powerful framework for smart home products called HomeKit, which could theoretically support NFC-equipped products.
Apple is expected to announce its new iPhone lineup at a special event on Sept. 9, which according to multiple reports will also include the unveiling of an "iWatch" wearable device. AppleInsider will offering live on-site coverage of the event next week.