New US patents assigned to Apple include technology that will enable the company to produce a totally “touchless” cell phone, triggering theories that the long-awaited iPhone 6 will be the first device out of the Apple stable to offer near-field communication (NFC). In addition to NFC there are several other secret features that the iPhone 6 is tipped to include.
Touchless technology, already well established by Apple’s main rival Samsung and several other brands, allows smartphones to communicate with each other simply by allowing two compatible devices to touch. The data, including photographs, is then seamlessly shared between the two phones. Similar technology, also patented by Apple, has the ability to convert mobile payments into a kind of wireless handshake that generates and then concludes transactions.
Researchers agree that Apple and Samsung lead the pack in terms of smartphone users in the US and internationally, with Samsung easily maintaining the lion’s share of 32.1 percent in last year’s third quarter, versus Apple’s 12.1 percent, according to research by Gartner.
However Apple is streaks ahead in terms of sales of its flagship iPhones. According to Counterpoint Technology Market Research’s Monthly Market Pulse Report for October last year, iPhone 5 and 5S were bestsellers globally, with arch rival Samsung in third place with its Galaxy S4. Apple’s third smartphone on the Top 10 list was the iPhone 5C that came in as the fourth most popular smartphone. Samsung’s Note III, Galaxy S III, S 4 mini, and S III mini took fifth, sixth, seventh and ninth places respectively. Two Nokia feature phones, the 105 and the Asha 501 were listed in eighth and tenth place.
While consumers eagerly await the launch of the iPhone 6, nobody is quite sure what Apple has in store. The strongest tip is that near-field communication (NFC) might be a feature. However the most recent patents do give a clue as to other secret features that could also be included.
Scheduled for release sometime soon, consumers want to know more exactly when they can buy the new iPhone 6, and what features it will incorporate. Of course it’s a guessing game. SEO Tim Cook is not about to give anyone out of the company a breakdown of the upgrades that will be made to iPhone 6 over the now hugely popular iPhone 5. It wouldn’t make any type of business sense for him to do that, even when asked directly if the new model would have a bigger screen, displays that are flexible, or NFC. Instead he is simply hinting that we consumers can expect some really nice updates and fantastic features – “great things,” he says, “but we want to keep them secret.” Why? Well because Cook doesn’t believe in sharing information “about future things.”
This of course is a tried and tested marketing approach that Apple has followed for decades. Keep quiet and let the world discuss what they’re going to launch. Rumors and speculation around the iPhone 6 are rife, just as they were with the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 4 before it. Until the day the company launches this new exciting product, and advertises it for sale, fans are not going to know for sure whether it’s going to incorporate NFC, and what other features will be included.
Millions of patents pass through the US Patent & Trademark Office every day. However a total of 19 new patents for Apple were published on January 16 this year alone. Some date back several years from their initial time of filing, and they cover a number of topics from databases to batteries and elements of GPS navigation systems.
Quite how much of the technology incorporated in these patents is going to be part of the iPhone 6 is not known, but NFC is definitely tipped to be one of them. Since another recent patent dating to late 2013 allowed iTunes gifting via NFC, this is another possibility. Popularly dubbed the iPhone Air, it is also thought that it will be extremely thin, just as the MacBook Air is. Another very hot tip is that smartphone payments will be integrated with iOS. However, will consumers wanting an iPhone now, wait to find out whether NFC really is on the cards, and uncover all the other still secret features? Or will they opt for the iPhone 5, a brilliant little machine that will ultimately be cheaper? Who knows?
By Penny Swift