When Apple introduced the iPad Air 2 during its recent press conference, the company didn’t discuss its on-board NFC chip at all. A teardown recently confirmed that one does indeed exist (it’s the green square highlighted by iFixit above), although it’s pretty much dormant at this point. Apple didn’t say that you’ll be able to use the iPad Air 2 for tap-and-go payments, and why would you? It’s kind of cumbersome to tap at a cash register. Instead, Apple said you can use Apple Pay with Touch ID inside apps and on the Web.
There may be an entirely different reason why the iPad Air 2 packs NFC, however, and it could be a great business opportunity for Apple.
GigaOm recently posted an article that highlights some speculation we had also thought about earlier. What if Apple has a mobile payment plan for the future in which the iPad Air 2 might not be used to make payments, but rather to accept them?
We already know that credit card reader dongles from PayPal, Amazon and PayPal are popular, particularly among smaller vendors. Head to a farmer’s market, for example, and it’s likely you’ll see at least some stands accepting payment through one of those aforementioned options attached to a smartphone or a tablet.
Apple could potentially remove those other competitors from the option by instead accepting mobile payments directly on its devices. A user with an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, for example, might be able to tap his or her iPhone to an iPad Air 2 with NFC to make a payment for a jar of jam, a loaf of bread or maybe a t-shirt at a concert. Apple could take a percentage of the fee from that sale, as is common from PayPal and Square. Through that method, Apple wins the game and cuts out those other accessories that otherwise are taking a chunk of potential revenue.
We don’t know when Apple will activate the NFC chip in the iPad Air 2, or if this is even definitely on the horizon, but it seems like Apple added NFC to the iPad Air 2 for a reason, and this is the most plausible outcome we, and others like GigaOm, can think of.