The speculation around iPhone 5S features boasting NFC has literally dumbed down to the point where no one's talking about it. And right at that point of time, here comes a Patently Apple report highlighting Apple's plans to simplify data transfer with what is absolutely NFC tech.
That Apple has been thinking about (and possibly working on) NFC for iOS devices is well-known. The pressing question is/was: will the iPhone 5S feature NFC like several Android competitors? While initial speculations hinted at this possibility (along with the fingerprint sensor tech), later analysis and rumors seem to be cautiously pessimistic about it.
Needless to say, we'll get to know about Apple's plans for NFC inwhen the device is set to be launched.
However, the granted patent recently revealed by the US Patent Office shows what Apple calls a ‘simplified data transfer' system. It's NFC, alright. The patent describes how an iOS device can actually initiate sync with another Apple device (iDevice, Mac etc.) via NFC. The data transfer, however, can be carried out via Wi-fi or Bluetooth also besides NFC itself which Apple still considers to be a naive and less-secure form of peer-to-peer connectivity.
Patently Apple says:
The technology described is to allow the transfer of data quickly between devices like an iMac to an iPod by simply tapping the devices together. The technology applies to a wide range of in-home devices such as Apple-TV, game consoles and beyond.
This is a 2009 patent (which Apple calls ‘Grab & Go'). The real-time implementation of this particular technology might already be underway which could possibly mean that the iPhone 5S has this particular NFC feature. However, come to think of it, of what use will the NFC be if you don't have other devices compatible with this tech? Right now, Apple's ecosystem is NFC-free.
Samsung's highly-marketed S-Beam is one example of the technology that Apple has been granted a patent for.