3 Reasons Apple’s iBeacon Might Kill NFC

December 11, 2013         By: David Mindich

It’s no secret that Apple has been keeping a tight lid on their new iBeacon technology. Yet it seems there is no shortage of people willing to speculate on what the device– now installed and operating in all of its own stores– could do for the payment industry.

While the  major phone companies and Google have been trying to force feed everyone NFC enabled payment solutions, it Apple has been quietly working on a non-NFC payment method that could, as we’ve discussed before, blow NFC right out of the water.  Here’s a few reason why.

It’s Hands Free

A big selling point behind NFC is how it’s supposed to be easier than pulling out your credit cards. But, with an optimal range of only 4 centimeters to reach the NFC tag, users will still have to whip out their phones to actually make the payment happen. Interestingly, with phones seeming to grow larger by the day, wrestling the thing out of your pocket may be even more of a hassle than the (non) issue NFC is supposed to fix.

Apple’s iBeacon, on the other hand, can read an iPhone (or potentially any other BLE enabled smart phone) from 50 meters away. Users would simply need to place their items down on the counter, opt to pay by their phone, and walk right through the door–perhaps even singing that song by Jane’s Addiction if they’d like.

It’s Pretty Much Already Readily Available

NFC readers require  a whole new POS system for stores to be able to use them. And while buying a new POS system to allow a few users the thrill of paying by their phone is a pretty tough sell to most merchants, picking up one fairly inexpensive iBeacon (about $30 each) to do the same thing might not be so tough.

BLE is available in just about every new phone on the market, though not every phone comes equipped with an NFC chip. Users would actually have to go to their wireless carrier’s store and pick up a new NFC SIM card, and while usually free, some carriers may charge as much as $20 dollars for one—which is more than enough to watch the incentive for NFC drop right off.

Speaking of incentive…

Incentive

Getting consumers to switch over to mobile payments simply because it’s “easier” or novel is not going to be enough to tip the scales for the industry. Consumers need a reason to switch, and if black Friday has taught us anything, it’s that consumers love deals.

It is possible for NFC wallets to offer deals and loyalty rewards through their apps, but doing it in real time is another story.

What iBeacon is doing in Apple stores is really what sets the product apart from NFC. Thanks to BLE, Apple stores can track where a consumer is located in their store and offer them deals and information directly related to products around them, giving consumers an immersive and smarter shopping experience.

Apple’s iBeacon might not just be the only viable solution to mobile payments, it might be the only way to shop in the near future.