Near Field Communication
Chances are you've already seen, or used, near field communication technology. It's actually not very new at all, despite it being touted as the next big smartphone addition. So, what is NFC?
Previously its main use has been door access, with a small key fob that you wave in front of a plate and it lets you through electronic locks. NFC isn't likely to be used for door access in smartphones (although there's absolutely no reason why it couldn't be) but for payments and fast, easy data gathering.
The great thing about NFC is that only one side of the technology needs power (the reader, which in this case is the iPhone 5). Therefore, every price tag on every product on every shelf could have a battery-less NFC device in it. Waving your iPhone 5, with its new NFC receiver, in front of one of these tags brings up info about the product. It could be used to pay for it at the counter, too, with an on-screen PIN to secure the transaction. You might not even need to go to the counter, for that matter.
This technology is already appearing in smartphones and cellphones (see Google Wallet), and a lot of people think Apple will adopt one of the many NFC formats out there for the iPhone 5. If it does so, Cupertino will probably establish the market standard for near field communication. It's coming, but there's a nagging doubt in the back of our mind about whether the iPhone 5 will deliver it. Even though we really hope it does.