NFC: Not ready for prime time?

Apple’s September 12 product launch event was everything you’d expect from a movie promotion — complete with leaks, trailers and a very active rumor mill.

While the iPhone 5 may not be THE shiniest new smartphone in 2012, it’s still an amazing feat of engineering. The device also marks a new era for Apple, who will still have a significant impact on retailers and brands for the foreseeable future. Here’s my take on what iPhone 5 means to the digital marketing industry:

The lack of NFC wasn’t an oversight. Apple knows what it’s doing when it comes to anticipating or creating a marketplace need. They’re taking the long view — that the mobile commerce industry still needs time to mature, despite the fact that Samsung and Nokia have been selling tons of NFC phones. But Apple knows the dirty little secret:  today’s shopper doesn’t really care about NFC. Until there’s a victor in the m-commerce war between heavyweights like Google Wallet, Isis, PayPal and Square, there’s still no real industry standard.
The safe bet is that Apple will sit out the NFC war until there’s a clear winner, then move into the market with guns blazing. Even Starbuck’s partnership with Square provides a way to pay without NFC, so there’s still some life left in the art of scanning a bar code from your mobile … which brings me to Passbook:

Your boarding passes, movie tickets, retail coupons, loyalty cards, and more are now all in one place. With Passbook, you can scan your iPhone or iPod touch to check in for a flight, get into a movie, and redeem a coupon.”

Passbook is Apple’s approach for going around NFC by creating an intuitive experience that combines ambient location-based services with loyalty programs. They’re betting that iPhone users will allow marketers to push information (tickets, coupons, etc.) to them at the moment they need it. It’s Apple’s trademark: Make it easy fun and easy use, and people will want it.

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