Apple taking NFC payments mainstream with iPhone 5

Ed McLaughlin, MasterCard’s head of emerging payments, sat down with Austin Carr of Fast Company to discuss the future of credit cards. “We’re rapidly moving to a world beyond plastic,” said McLaughlin. “In many ways, plastic is just convenient packaging.” The future of on-the-go payments may lie in the hands of near-field communication but unfortunately, adoption and availability have been extremely slow and limited. While NFC technology has been featured in a number of Android devices, MasterCard seems to think it won’t go mainstream until an iPhone is equipped with the mobile payment solution. Read on for more.

“The timeline is always as rapid as it makes sense for consumers,” McLaughlin said. “That’s a combination of having a critical mass of the merchants, which is what you’re seeing right now, and getting devices into the hands of consumers. I don’t know of a handset manufacturer that isn’t in process of making sure their stuff is PayPass ready.” When asked specifically if Apple was one of these manufacturers, McLaughlin stuttered. “Um, there are…like I say, [I don't know of] any handset maker out there,” he said. “Now, when we have discussions with our partners, and they ask us not to disclose them, we don’t.”

Apple has repeatedly shown that it is one of the few consumer electronics companies right now with the ability to transform and create entire industries. Prior to iTunes and the iPod, virtually no one paid for digital music, and media tablets were a non-factor until the iPad. Does the mobile payment industry need Apple to become a mainstream phenomenon? “Well, anytime someone with a major base moves forward, it advances what you’re doing. So of course,” McLaughlin said. “I think as merchants provide these better interfaces for consumers–a better way of transacting–I think any consumer-focused technology provider would want to take advantage of it.”

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