After all the recent rumors and speculation about Apple willing to implement Near Field Communication (NFC) technology into the next-generation iPhone, The New York Times weighed in earlier today to confirm that according to "two people with knowledge of the inner workings of a coming iteration of the Apple iPhone" a future version of the device will indeed include NFC.
The NYT report is rather curious as they're not sure whether or not Apple will deploy this feature in the iPhone 5, set to debut this summer:
According to two people with knowledge of the inner workings of a coming iteration of the Apple iPhone — although not necessarily the next one — a chip made by Qualcomm for the phone’s processor will also include near-field communication technology, known as N.F.C. This technology enables short-range wireless communications between the phone and an N.F.C reader, and can be used to make mobile payments. It is unclear which version of an iPhone this technology would be built into.
The New York Times also claims that according to another person familiar with Apple's plans the iPhone will use NFC to enable mobile payments tied to users' iTunes credit -- something that was also reported in the past months, although some people speculated Apple could also consider providing an option for billing users through their carrier, rather than iTunes. At this point, however, it seems very clear that Apple will strongly invest in the iTunes payment option to give users the possibility to "keep it all together" in iTunes. Currently Apple has more than 200 million active accounts in iTunes with credit card information stored on their servers.
In the past months, rumors suggested Apple could also rely on NFC and MobileMe to enable remote computing and usage of App Store apps. Several reports pointed to the iPhone 5 featuring / not featuring NFC, and others also reported such a feature was being considered for the iPad. An e-Wallet application for iOS also made an appearance in a patent design published last year.