Apple has done it again. The hungry consumers just can't get enough of their Apple a day. Welcome the iPhone 5. (Crazy, their first batch is already sold out on the first day of pre-ordering.) It looks beautiful, as expected, so I'm going to jump right into what really caught my eye.
This is what struck my curiosity: Apple did not embed NFC chips into the new iPhone 5. What's NFC? Near field communication (NFC) is a set of standards for smartphones and similar devices to establish radio communication with each other or bringing them into close proximity. NFC traces its roots back to RFID. RFID allows a reader to send radio waves to a passive electronic tag for identification, authentication and tracking. It's important to note that this form of communication also works when one of the devices is not powered.
What does this mean for consumers?
By having these chips in our smartphones, you'd be able to pay by waving your phone at the checkout register. This chip is connected to an app that is connected to your bank account and credit card. Innocent enough. No harm done, as long as your phone is charged and working. But if you think about it, doesn't it feel like we'd be moving even further away from coins and dollars and even plastic debit/credit cards?
In an interview, Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller said that Passbook alone does what most customers want and works without existing merchant payment systems. "It’s not clear that NFC is the solution to any current problem", Schiller said.
A Huffington Post article says in part: "Anyone hoping NFC would be a reality soon is disappointed," said Sanjay Sakhrani, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. "Many in the industry were hoping inclusion in the iPhone would be a springboard for more adoption. This takes the impetus away."
So if NFC isn't solving any particular problem, you have to wonder why the push for implementation? Why is there an ever-growing NFC Forum? What about Isis, the mobile payment system? Who is C-Sam? Who is Gemalto? For the sake of time, I'm going to focus on Isis and its connections.
ISIS-a future monopoly?
ISIS is a joint venture between AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless in the mobile payment space, announced on 16 November 2010. The system is based on NFC. Their aim? Build a national mobile payments network. As NFCWorld announced back in 2010: the new service aims to ultimately eliminate "the need for consumers to carry cash, credit and debit cards, reward cards, coupons, tickets and transit passes."
Guess who were the first two partners: Barclaycard U.S., a unit of Barclays Plc (the British multinational banking and financial services company) and Discover Financial Services. Who is the CEO? Former GE executive Michael J. Abbott is now the CEO. Reuters reports that the venture's first partners will include American Express, JPMorgan Chase and Capital One Financial.
“This network will provide greater value than simply a payment network,” said Abbott. “Just think of the cost and efficiency savings for the merchants.”
He declined to comment on how carriers will profit from transactions.
“This is where the market is moving,” said Amer Sajed, CEO of Barclaycard U.S., in an interview. “We’ll have tremendous access to scale with three of the largest telcos in the country.”
Followed by Apple's announcement that iPhone5 would not support NFC, Reuters reports today (9/14/12) that Isis has delayed launch for a second time. The scheduled launch date was set for Sept. 21st, 2012. I'm pretty sure they're not happy with Apple. The problem with this is who is behind the push. They're the big players, the ones who can change policies if need be. Here's an interesting example of how deep some connections go:
People associated with the GE board are Katharine Graham, owner of the Washington Post; Robert McNamara, former secretary of defense; Harold Brown, another former defense secretary; Cyrus Vance, Carter's secretary of state; and Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve. These and other board members sit on the boards of major U.S. corporations like Quaker Oats, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, J. P. Morgan, and Citicorp. These are all people who could potentially have great impact on what occurs in the U.S.
My two cents: After a quick dive into who makes up this effort, what their goals are and who's controlling it from behind the scenes, I'm thrilled that Apple is opting for alternative, more transparent options. I should have the option to not have that chip (that allows tracking even if my phone is off) and i shouldn't be forced to change into a new currency system or to stop using a non-electronic form of payment. Soon enough noone will accept cash. These are just my opinions, mainly in the form of questions and connections my subconscious makes. Shifting the way people use and think of currency...Definitely something that makes me go hmm.