iOS 12 could use an existing iPhone component to replace your keychain and more. A Friday report claims Apple plans to boost the capabilities of the near-field communication chip used for Apple Pay contactless payments, expanding its feature set for identity verification, smart lock interactions, transit fares and more.
The report from The Information claims Apple will roll out the changes as part of its next major iPhone software update, expected to be announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference on June 4. It would be one of the biggest changes for the chip since its debut in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in September 2014. Although it’s remained almost entirely reserved for Apple Pay, the chip could support a number of features that Android phones have offered for years, like Bluetooth pairing with NFC-enabled devices through a tap or entering offices where the employer has provided NFC-powered door access.
Apple has worked to expand NFC’s capabilities before. A report one month after the iPhone 6 launch suggested Apple was speaking with technology providers HID Global and Cubic about using the chip for buildings and transit fares. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus versions sold in Japan added support for NFC-F that enables FeliCa-powered payments, used on the country’s buses and trains due to its speedy authentication times. The iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X brought this support to devices sold worldwide.
Apple also expanded NFC with iOS 11, which debuted as a free software update last fall. “Core NFC,” the name given to the new development framework, enables the iPhone 7, 7 Plus and newer to scan NFC chips when using a supported app. While it’s useful for advanced wine cataloging and other niche use cases, opening an app is not as convenient as Apple Pay that allows a user to hold the phone near a compatible reader and scan their fingerprint or face to complete the transaction.
If the rumor holds true, more should be revealed about Apple’s implementation at WWDC 2018. Apple’s keynote speech will be followed by a series of breakout sessions for developers to get to grips with new features, which is where more details should be revealed about how Apple would implement such a feature in a secure way.
The era of walking around with a collection of keys could soon come to an end.