NFC may not have a home in next iPhone

We’ve been hoping for near field communication (NFC) to finally make its way to the iPhone (s aapl), and there was hope recently that the time had finally come. But apparently we will have to wait some more. AnandTech has concluded that the next iPhone won’t be able to support an NFC antenna.

AnandTech said given the reports that the next iPhone will have a metal backing, there will not be enough space in the non-metal window reserved for other antennas to support an NFC chip. Jim Dalrymple at The Loop also added his two cents, saying NFC was a no-go on the next iPhone. Other phones have placed the NFC antenna on the battery or the battery cover, but if the iPhone does appear with a metal backing, that should rule out the possibility of NFC, said AnandTech.

“It shouldn’t need saying, but having a huge ground plane (the unibody metal back case) in the way of your NFC antenna will seriously degrade performance, thus only the top or bottom windows are logical places to put it,” said AnandTech.

NFC iPhone

Possible component images of the iPhone led some to believe this might be an NFC chip.

Placing the NFC antenna at the top or bottom of the next iPhone, however, could create awkward alignment issues for tapping other phones and readers and could cut down on the coupling distance, said AnandTech. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but it wouldn’t fit Apple’s approach to making polished technology, the blog said.

If this is true, it would be a let down for NFC proponents. While some critics have questioned the need for NFC, there’s a lot that the short-distance wireless technology can do. NFC in the iPhone could work with Passbook, an upcoming app that lets people store tickets, boarding passes and loyalty cards as barcodes. Adding NFC could enable tap-and-go payments as well. But NFC isn’t just about payments. Users could also utilize NFC to transfer content between devices, obtain local marketing offers from signs or gain physical entry into buildings.

With more and more devices coming with NFC, it would seem logical for Apple to join in. Microsoft (s msft) has said Windows Phone 8 devices will come with support for NFC payments. And Google (s goog) continues to push on the future of NFC payments with Google Wallet. I’ve said in the past that Apple could be the biggest catalyst for NFC payments, making the technology accessible to users. Apple’s retail stores could also be a great showcase and classroom for teaching people how to use their phones for NFC actions.

But NFC also still isn’t mainstream and Apple has a history of waiting to adopt new technologies until it feels it can utilize them in meaningful ways. Of course, Apple might still find a way to sneak NFC into the next iPhone. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it waited another year. Consumers and merchants are still figuring out the value of mobile payments, and one year won’t decide who wins or loses.