A recent photo leak of the latest version of the Apple iPhone offers convincing evidence that near field communication (NFC) technology will arrive on the upcoming smartphone. The rumor mill has been back-and-forth on whether or not Apple will decide to install this piece of technology and flirt with the opportunity for mobile payments.

Mike Miley / Flickr source

According to photos gathered by Apple Insider, a site that follows Apple products, the next-generation iPhone houses an NFC chip that enables the smartphone to communicate with other devices in close proximity of each other. It can also be used to make payments when the phone is tapped or waved at a special payment terminal.

Apple did not confirm the arrival of NFC on its iPhone product.

Apple obtained patents on an NFC-based mobile-payments platform called iWallet in March. How or if Apple plans to use that patent is anyone’s guess.

In June, Apple revealed a mobile application called Passbook, which is expected to appear along with the company’s next mobile operating system. Passbook is designed to be a digital organizer of gift cards, loyalty cards, coupons, travel tickets and more. At the time, Passbook was shown to use barcodes that can be scanned.

With NFC capabilities, Passbook has the potential to accommodate credit and debit cards for making point-of-sale purchases.

Last month, Apple executives were reportedly dropping mobile-payment plans because of concerns over battery life and consumer adoption, according to the Wall Street Journal. Two weeks later, contrary to the WSJ report, it now looks like NFC will be in the next version of the iPhone.

The mixed rumors are just fueling speculation ahead of the new iPhone’s release.

If Apple decides to power mobile payments with NFC technology, the iWallet will join Google Wallet and Isis Mobile Wallet in shaping the future of consumer payments. With a cult-like following and the power to draw long lines come launch time, Apple can use the next iPhone to push mobile-payments adoption among consumers and merchants.

The end to these rumors is coming soon. Although unannounced, Apple is expected to introduce the next-generation iPhone on Sept. 12, with a release date of Sept. 21.

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