iPhone 5 Aftermath: the Biggest Loser Is NFC

Even though Nokia's Windows Phone 8 handsets and all the new Android devices feature NFC capability, its absence from the iPhone 5 deprives the technology "a mainstreaming opportunity" in the immediate future. Unlike any other company in the mobile industry Apple has the ability to popularize and educate consumers about new technologies.

A case-in-point is Siri. Speech recognition and "voice search" long-predated the iPhone 4S; however Siri was able to popularize them in ways that even Google and Microsoft could not. That would also have been true of near-field communications had the iPhone 5 incorporated it. 

Apple's Passbook software/app is a mobile wallet, which will enable transactions (i.e., Starbucks stored value card). However it won't be a full-blown mobile wallet that stores a credit card an enables contactless payments. That could come with the iPhone 5S or "5N" (for NFC). 

Obviously "the industry" will be moving forward with NFC rollout plans: Project Oscar in Europe, ISIS and Google Wallet in the US and so on. However consumers still need to be educated about the use cases and benefits of the technology. In some isolated situations they are or have been but for the most part -- certainly this is true in the US -- they remain ignorant of the technology itself let alone what it can do for them. 

On the broader subject of mobile wallets and mobile payments (NFC is only one flavor) most US consumers have little or no interest today: 

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Source: Opus Research (August, 2012), n=1,501

In the US market at least there's a double challenge: sell consumers on the benefits of mobile payments, which Apple can and will help do with Passbook and other third party apps, and sell them specifically on contactless, NFC-enabled payments.