More alleged next-generation iPhone photos appearing on Apple.pro over the weekend have revealed the presence of a previously unseen square chip near the top of the new iPhone design, believed to be the first confirmation of previously rumored near-field communication (NFC) hardware in Apple’s next-generation iPhone. While the actual functions of the chip are not clear from the photos, software support for NFC was discovered in June by 9to5Mac in code dumps taken from iPhone prototype hardware, and the location of the new chip corresponds to diagrams in Apple’s iWallet patent from May of 2010. NFC capabilities would enable the new iPhone to serve as a virtual wallet, communicating with wireless payment terminals at stores to transfer stored value, rather than requiring users to carry separate credit cards. The feature would likely tie into Passbook, a new addition to iOS 6 that holds tickets and other virtual proof of payment documents for iPhone users.
Updated August 28, 2012: Following an Anandtech analysis concluding that NFC would not be in the new iPhone, Apple-sourced blogger Jim Dalrymple appeared to confirm the analysis as correct. [via MacRumors]