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NFC and the iPhone 5 in General

September 13th, 2012

Apple VP Phil Schiller on why the iPhone 5 doesn’t have NFC built in:

It’s not clear that NFC is the solution to any current problem, Schiller said. “Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today.”


Number one, since when does Apple wait to fulfill a need until everyone is doing it? With that kind of attitude, the iPhone would never have been created. Apple’s main distinction is that it creates products that do things people want to do but either didn’t know it or they weren’t available.

Second, not every customer is in America. Here in Japan, having NFC would mean I could make payments at most stores and use the iPhone as a train pass. At this time, I am still on the fence as to whether or not to get the new iPhone—an incrementally taller screen, LTE, and a slightly faster processor do not give me anything I need right now, but NFC would completely change the game for me.

Which brings us to the most likely reason Apple did not include NFC and why Schiller gave a BS answer: because Apple was not able to establish an NFC payment system where Apple gets to take a cut of each payment made. Making NFC available in Japan, for instance, would have meant simply making the chip available to be configured to other companies’ setups, which would be fantastic for users, but Apple would see nothing of all that cash flowing through its product.

And I think that is something Apple cannot bear—they have demonstrated in the past that if any transaction goes on within sight of an Apple product, it must either pay Apple or be denied a place in Apple’s domain.

Apple does not want to enable other companies to make money using their product; Apple wants to wait until it can figure out a way to commandeer the profits from NFC payments. Allowing such payments to go without Apple in the loop even for a short time would be a bad precedent.

This is one of the less satisfying aspects of being an Apple user. I am sure that when Apple does NFC, if it does, it’ll be great and either the same price as competitors or better—but Apple won’t allow it to happen at all until it can insinuate itself in the profit chain, and that means people like me have to wait without an obvious and current technology while Apple cuts deals.

Meanwhile, about the phone: As I mentioned above, nothing really knocks my socks off.

4“ screen instead of 3.5” screen? Meh. I use jailbreak apps to space the icons, have had five rows for some time already.

LTE? It’s not like I sit around waiting for downloads on my phone all the time. It works fast enough as-is. Not to mention I have no idea if Softbank will make new charges for LTE use. Now, if they kept the data fees the same but allowed tethering? That might interest me. Otherwise, meh.

The new camera? Sweet, and I would love the panorama feature. But get a new phone just for that? Meh.

Thinner, lighter? So small a change I would probably not even notice. Sexy, sure, but still, meh.

Faster CPU and graphics? Wouldn’t help much of anything I already do, wouldn’t make me do more than I already do. Meh.

Disappointing is Apple’s lockout of new iOS features on older phones—again a maddening move by Apple to push users to buy new products. Siri will still be denied to iPhone 4 users, as will 3D flyovers and turn-by-turn directions in the new Maps app. While that’s frustrating and more than a little annoying, I don’t see myself using Siri much, and can live without the maps features. They would be nice to have, but I don’t like being coerced like that.

I just checked Apple’s iOS page. Turns out they are denying the iPhone 4 with the panorama feature (bastards), as well as FaceTime over 3G (wouldn’t use it anyway).

However, almost all of these will be available on the iPad 3, which I do have.

Bottom line: I will check with SoftBank about my account status. If there are no changes in fees for LTE, and if SoftBank subsidizes the whole cost over two years, making the new iPhone essentially free, then I will probably get it because there is simply no downside to getting it. I don’t see Apple releasing NFC with the iPhone 5S or whatever the next one is called, so I don’t think I’d be shutting myself out of the next phone’s features much.

The only thing that would hold me back: soon after getting the iPhone 3G, I recall SoftBank changed their charge schedule to make the data plans cheaper—but demanded an extra year’s indenture to SoftBank in order to get it. I do not know if that has carried on to this day. If it has, I would avoid the iPhone 5 as a way to unshackle myself from SoftBank, just in case I might want to switch to KDDI. If that year does not apply and I am currently free anyway, then never mind, and iPhone 5 it is.

As for Sachi, we more or less decided that she doesn’t really use the data plan much, so staying with the iPhone 4 would mean we could save about $50 a month, which would be nice, and the iPhone 4 performs well enough.

I guess I’ll have to drop by the SoftBank office today, but don’t look forward to the lines…

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  1. Troy
    September 13th, 2012 at 12:48 | #1

    none of my iOS devices can be upgraded to 6.0, alas.

    none too happy about that.

    I got the iPod Touch 2 in late 2009, and it’s still state of the art more or less. (My 2007 iPod Touch, no upgrade since iOS 3 or whenever.)

    The first-gen iPad I got in early 2010 is also still good enough — I’m sure the 3 is tons faster but I have no complaints about what I use the iPad for.

    Apple doesn’t support 10.8 for my 2006 Mac Pro, since it has 32-bit EFI and they’re not going to upgrade that firmware.

    I’m kinda reconciled to not having an iPhone. I’ve resisted for 5 years now, LOL.

    I’ve got the crappiest crap phone you can imagine but the service only costs $80/yr and since it’s a clamshell tank I don’t have to worry about damaging it or anything.

    The new iPod Touch is an interesting do-it-all platform and I might get one later this year, but I was in fact hoping to see that 7″ rumored iPad. I think that might be the best sweet spot — the “retina” hoo-hah is kinda wasted on me since my eyes suck in middle age.

    $400 for the 64GB iPod Touch might work I guess.

  2. Troy
    September 13th, 2012 at 13:31 | #2


    kinda my thoughts . . . 16:9 is not a good form factor at that scale. It’s OK for movies and maybe football, but everything else doesn’t need widescreen all that much.

  3. Tim Kane
    September 14th, 2012 at 00:38 | #3

    I suppose I should know this by now but…

    What does Meh mean?

    Br, ttl,

  4. Luis
    September 14th, 2012 at 00:44 | #4

    From the Oxford’s on my Mac:

    meh |me| informal
    expressing a lack of interest or enthusiasm: Meh. I’m not impressed so far.
    uninspiring; unexceptional: a lot of his movies are … meh.
    • unenthusiastic; apathetic: everyone else I talked to was kind of meh.
    ORIGIN 1990s: apparently popularized by the television series The Simpsons.

    And the ever-reliable YouTube:


  5. Luis
    September 14th, 2012 at 02:45 | #5

    I went to SoftBank today. Apparently, I have no contract obligations from this point. Which means that I suppose I’ll get the phone, simply because there’s no foreseeable downside, and it’ll (probably) be free.

    Interestingly (but not too surprisingly), the clerk had no idea of when SB would start making the iPhone 5 available, and didn’t even know when Apple had announced it would be. The clerk didn’t even know that SB was deploying an LTE network, though supposedly it’s not yet fully completed yet and is still not available–whether that will change with the iPhone 5 is unclear.

    In any case, SB just issued a press release: they will be taking advance orders for the new iPhone starting tomorrow (er, today), 9/14, at 4 pm. I finish my classes at about 4:30, but will probably wait until I get back to my home station, as the lines will probably be longest in Shinjuku…

  6. Tim Kane
    September 14th, 2012 at 09:23 | #6

    Thanks Luis.

    There are still a few expressions and words out there that I don’t know despite being a native speaker of English.

    I agree with your sentiments on the iphone. The wow factor seems to be missing. Meanwhile other companies are pursuing the wow factor.

    I just recently purchased an Android Phone: the Kyocera Rise (http://www.virginmobileusa.com/shop/cell-phones/kyocera-rise-phone/features/)

    I wanted to dabble in the android market, I wanted a better phone that I was coping with. I wanted as cheap as possible monthly rate ($80 for a contract carrier -sprint- is pretty normal! [Virgin is also Sprint – and I got it, in part because my crappy old phone wouldn’t work there because Sprint doesn’t want ATT to work on their campus)

    The device has a 3.5 inch screen, just like my Ipod Touch (4th gen). Most of the time, I feel little qualitative difference from the Ipod. No doubt the Ipod is a more quality product, and the iphone is definitely better. I realize the phone could quit working tomorrow, but for a $100 I feel like I’m lacking nothing that the Iphone (prior Iphone5) would have to offer except a couple of apps I can’t get on Android (yet) that I am fond of. The navigation app shows a picture of where I live when I pull up in front, and its a house on a small street in the burbs.

    Virgin will sell me this phone for $100, or the Iphone for $550.

    The reason I was particular on getting this device is that I wanted to try the Android eco system, and an external keyboard. But my long held dream is total digital convergence: one device for (nearly) all uses. I actually think the Samsung Note provides that. The key is a screen over 5 inches. But Samsung is Android, and so a year or two when I decide to buy a premium phone, I have to decide on which eco system, thus I wanted to try Android out.

    Samsungs strategy is to provide at least one phone for every market. They are going after volume, big time. And your comments seem to confirm that Apple is going after money, big time. They are already treating this product like its a cash cow. The problem is, later on, the volume leader can maneuver to box in the smaller competitor. Apple had already experienced that back in the 1990s and it nearly destroyed them.

    While because of the qualitative difference, I don’t expect Apple to flood markets with crappy devices, instead of offering one phone for the entire market, they should offer a range of phones. Some people like the Iphone at 3.5 inches. Now they have one at 4 inches (I think they should have gone for 4.5, but what do I know, they have about $50billion more than me). They should offer phones at 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, 7 (mini ipod), and 9 (ipod) and so on. There ought to be an ipod for every taste.

    Apple is too important for America for them to get squeezed back into a boutique player in this area. I think they could spend some of that money of theirs pushing out in the market place and developing more “wow factor” applications (if they are out there to be discovered and developed). Anyway, I’d like to see Apple have a bigger foot print. And predicating that on higher revenue streams could box Apple back into the boutique market place from whence it came.

  7. Jim
    September 15th, 2012 at 05:53 | #7

    I guess I will have to keep my suica card inside my iphone case a little longer. Let’s be honest though, Japan is mostly a cash society with the few exceptions being train and bus passes and vending machines. Oh, and most combini take suica etc. Everywhere else you better break out a fat wad of bills. And that’s some government offices too.

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