At the last WWDC, Apple introduced an interesting product called Passbook. It was Apple’s answer to Google Wallet, Square, and the various other mobile payment systems.
It has some interesting functionality, but was fairly slim compared to most Apple product launches. Turns out, the reason for that was that the company originally was planning on an NFC payment system. But top management decided that NFC would never have the penetration and adoption to make it work.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple began working on their own mobile payment system as a response to Google’s Wallet. Originally they strove to implement a similar system, complete with NFC points for payment. The idea was that they could integrate iTunes and the hundreds of millions of credit cards linked to it with in-world purchases and make the entire process completely painless. But they decided against it in part because implementing such a thing is very complex and Apple didn’t feel comfortable tackling it. At least, not with NFC user adoption being as low as it is.
Apparently engineers were considering integrating NFC regardless of whether Apple decided on a NFC-based payment system, but decided against including one out of concerns over battery life. That is actually a common reason for Apple hardware not to include features, and one of the major reasons Android devices tend to last for so little time.
The NFC payment system was finally put to rest in a top-level management meeting earlier this year, which puts it quite close to the Passbook reveal. Which is why passbook is still so bare. But there is still time for Apple to get into the mobile payments game. With Google, Sprint, Microsoft, ISIS and Square all competing, it is still anyone’s game.