NFC integration highlights iPhone 5 - 2011 predictions

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The annual release of a new iPhone is now as much of an inevitability as death and taxes--the question is what will set the fifth edition of the iconic Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) smartphone apart from its predecessors, and the smart money is on Near Field Communications-enabled mobile payment technologies. It's a sure thing, if only to keep pace with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG): The new Android 2.3 supports NFC, with some future Android devices slated to contain chips enabling users to "bump" their phone against participating retailers' point-of-sale system, funding purchases without cash or credit. Google adds it will leverage the bump solution to enable consumers to touch Android smartphones together to share information or data.

Apple's iTunes system--which already contains credit and debit card information spanning hundreds of millions of users--should make the computing giant's transition into mobile payment technologies unusually seamless. But this is Apple, so expect something far more ambitious than a mobile wallet platform. Insider buzz indicates Apple is plotting an NFC-enabled remote computing solution allowing users to wave their iPhone at any compatible Mac, loading all their personal applications, data and settings from the smartphone to the desktop; in effect, any Mac would mirror the user's own, with the original settings restored when the individual moves out of range. Look for other proximity-based innovations as well.