Some have criticized Apple for omitting NFC from the iPhone 5, which has led to a widespread reassessment of NFC's immediate future, especially in the U.S.
Still, nearly all analysts predict Apple will eventually include NFC in the iPhone 6 or beyond, noting that Apple is steadily acquiring technologies to do so, including a fingerprint and NFC identity recognition system from Authentec.
But even if Apple moves ahead on NFC in the next iPhone, its omission from the iPhone 5 has already delayed NFC adoption for at least another year, observers agree. And in the meantime, Rick Oglesby, an analyst with Aite Group, warns that while NFC can offer a superior user experience over barcode scanning, "that doesn't mean NFC is going to be the definitive winner. It's very possible that the situation could turn into a VHS vs. Beta thing, where barcodes are faster to market, become second nature to consumers and therefore consumers never move to NFC." He nonetheless believes NFC will become mainstream at some point.
This fall, Samsung took advantage of iPhone 5's omission of NFC, running TV ads to pitch the other big value of NFC: sharing data such as music, video and social networking information from one NFC-ready Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone to another. The ads show two people touching phones together, but don't specify how long it takes to transfer a large file (several seconds, depending on the file size). Nor do the Samsung ads note that the Android Beam application (called S Beam in Samsung phones, with added enhancements) that makes the transfer possible actually uses NFC to kick off a Bluetooth wireless transfer of the data.
A demonstration of the Google Wallet application during the company's press conference in May 2011. Credit: Shannon Stapleton / Reuters
Some online forums include comments by Android smartphone users that complain about confusion over how to use Android Beam and the NFC-related data transfer. Overall, it is difficult to know how often or widely Android Beam is used successfully, analysts note.