The US Patent and Trademark Office has this week published a new Apple patent application covering Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, adding evidence that the company could be planning on bringing NFC features, such as mobile payments, to the next iPhone.

Patently Apple reports that the new patent covers a range of features, including a new focus on methods and systems for establishing an NFC session with an electronic device. NFC is a set of short-range wireless standards that let mobile phones communicate with each other – or with other electronic devices.

Apple has filed for multiple NFC-related patents in the past, including a patent application that details an iWallet transaction app, which would allow fast mobile payments. See also: Apple granted NFC shopping list patent for future iPhones

It's been suggested that Apple could also build a fingerprint sensor into the Home button of the next iPhone in order for such mobile payments to be carried out securely.

 

Apple's Passbook app could be expanded to include NFC and mobile payment functionality. The app currently provides quick access to tickets, boarding passes and loyalty cards.

Before the iPhone 5 was launched last year, it was expected that NFC could be a new feature in the device. However, the iPhone 5 was launched without it, a move that divided the opinions of analysts, experts and customers.

See also:

A short history of NFC

Despite Apple, NFC is catching on – just not for payments quite yet

TfL confirms NFC payments to go live on London buses this week

NFC-enabled phone sales top 35m in 2011

Apple concerned about mobile payment security