iPhone 5 may use Bluetooth 4.0 instead of NFC

The Bluetooth standard has been around for 17 years now offering up an open wireless standard enjoyed by many phone headset wearers and laptop users. for most people it’s just another bullet point they expect to see on the feature list of their latest gadget. but Apple could be about to make it an integral part of the next iPhone, and in so doing, completely bypass the need for an NFC chip in its smartphones.

Apple became a member of the Bluetooth special interest group a few months ago and has been on board with the development of Bluetooth 4.0, It’s a significant release because it splits Bluetooth communication into two categories: Bluetooth high speed and Bluetooth low energy.

The high speed version relies on Wi-Fi allowing for high data transfer rates, but using more power. The low energy version uses the legacy Bluetooth protocols, but is meant to draw considerably less energy than previous versions of Bluetooth. Switching between the two can be done on the fly using a dual-mode chip meaning high-speed data transfers on demand with very low power usage over time.

So why is this of importance to the iPhone? The fact Apple joined the Bluetooth special interest group and pushed ahead with Bluetooth 4.0 means the company has an interest in using it. Bluetooth is also an established and cheap, secure communication solution to use that’s already installed in a lot of devices. Apple has previously stated that NFC just isn’t ready yet, meaning there isn’t a solution that fits with the strict design requirements needed to fit all the phone features in the tiny iPhone package.

Dual-mode Bluetooth 4.0 chips already exist from manufacturers including Atheros, CSR, and Texas Instruments. The cost increase over the more typical Bluetooth chips we see in today’s gadgets is thought to be negligible. There’s also a lot of experience and refinement occurred due to Bluetooth being around for so long, meaning Apple will have an easier time finding a solution that fits the phone.

All of this suggests Apple may bypass NFC completely for its next generation phone, instead offering Bluetooth as an NFC-like solution. The question is, will retailers respond by embracing Bluetooth as a payment option? Millions of iPhone 5 sales mean they more than likely will.

Read more at ITProPortal

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