There are two features of the recently announced iPhone 6 which one has to wonder if ever would have been included if Steve Jobs were still around. The most obvious is the larger screens clocking in at 4.7" and 5.5". Jobs once said that counsumers wouldn't buy large screen phones because "You can't get your hand around it."
Less splashy but more important to the marketing world, is the inclusion of NFC in the iPhone 6. While Apple's new payment platform (Apple Pay) was the focus for much of the NFC announcement, NFC's presence in the iPhone opens up worlds of non-payment opportunities for marketers.
It's a safe bet that mobile payment hasn't taken off due in large part to a lack of NFC support by Apple. While the iPhone does not dominate market share as it did in the past, it still maintains control of a significant portion. With Apple's intention in the mobile payment arena unclear before now, retailers have been hesitant to invest in new POS systems supporting NFC.
In much the same way, Apple's lack of support has hampered marketers' ability to leverage NFC in technology-based activations. Activating "Bring Your Own Device" campaigns using NFC was simply impossible because so many consumers would show up toting non-NFC enabled iPhones. While last week's announcement won't change this problem overnight, it will put a big dent in it on September 19th when the new iPhone is launched and continue to chip away at it in the weeks and months to follow.
Strong NFC support might finally get right what QR Codes didn't. Think of any activation, successful or (as a lot of them have been) unsuccessful with QR. Now imagine how much better it would have been without the need for ANY preloaded software or the hassle of focusing a camera, ensuring the perfect angle and avoiding glare. With NFC, you simply tap to launch a URL or take action inside an app (or the relevant app store if you don't have the app).
When shopping, a tap adds the product to your personal shopping cart, giving you instant comparisons between the items you're considering. Give the retailer your information, and they'll send you an e-mail with more details. Ready to order the product or accessories? Tap checkout.
Of course, these are just the obvious examples. It will be exciting to see the explosion of new uses for NFC in this and other areas. It's funny how the inclusion of a technology that is by no means 'new' can drive so much innovation. With NFC now taking a big step down the road to ubiquity, no doubt some very creative people will be far more willing to try new and interesting things with it. I for one will be watching, and perhaps Steve will be too.
Update: This doesn't come as a big suprise, but according to Cult of Mac's "sources at Apple" NFC will be used exclusively for Apple Pay at launch. Apple will not, at least for now, be providing third party developers access to the NFC hardware in it iOS API's. This doesn't mean third parties will never be able to use NFC for innovative new applications, but if it happens it will be well after the iPhone 6 launch date.