While the next iPhone (or iPhone 5, as many people are calling it) is already rumored to have a larger display and a different design, new rumors suggest the phone will also have Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. NFC chips enable people to send data between two NFC-equipped devices. You can tap a phone to a credit card reader to pay, for instance, or bump two phones gently together to send photos or video from one to the other.
According to the Apple blog 9to5Mac, data found in code for the next iPhone reveals that the phone will have NFC controllers. To back up its claim, the site points to patents for NFC that have been filed by Apple. It also quotes the chief technology officer of SITA, an air transportation organization, who is convinced NFC is coming to the next iPhone.
Apple showed off the next version of its iPhone and iPad operating system - iOS 6 - earlier this month at its WWDC conference. Included in the software is an app called Passbook, which provides easy access to loyalty cards, including those from Starbucks, Fandango, etc. Many speculate that this app will have NFC capabilities. There are more details on Passbook and iOS 6 here.
Apple is expected to release the next iPhone in the second half of the year, perhaps in September or October, close to a year after the iPhone 4S was released. Apple has not said anything publicly about the next version of its iPhone.