Apple Building iPhone Prototypes with RFID Swiping?

iPhone 2.0: Spidey Sense to Tingle?

According to AppleInsider, Near Field Communications reports that Apple has built iPhone prototypes equipped with RFID (Radio-Frequency IDentification).

For those unfamiliar, RFID is either super-convenient, terrifyingly insecure, or both. In a nutshell, it broadcasts a signal that can be read from a short distance to process financial transactions (an easy-pay card), determine identity (some nations' passports), and more futuristic concepts where devices can auto-discover and connect with each other based on their tags.

The convenient part is you could swipe your iPhone to pay for goods or services rather than carrying around cards. Your iPhone could also keep track of tagged item like keys so you can find them between your sofa cushions.

The terrifying part is when hackers and other bad guys read your financial information from a distance, or "see" what country you're from when trying to determine targets in less friendly parts of the world. Or, just use them to track you instead of your keys.

The future is not for the timid, however, so let us know -- do you want?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter,, Google+.

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There are 36 comments. Add yours.

EdwardMonton says:

This sounds cool, I am sure Apple will incorporate a high level of encryption security to this when it is ready.

Adam says:

Just carry a gun. Problem solved.

Wyatt says:

This could lead to a whole slue of privacy issues. May be time to start looking into lead lined iPhone cases. lol

rob says:

if its done by itunes accounts which would make sense the hacker would need to know your password

chrisr1975 says:

that is something I wouldn't want. Youtube "vchip" we are be decenstized to the eventual mark of the beast where you will need one of these chips to purchase goods in the end times. NO THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!

Paul says:

Lol. I bet tons of people don't realize they carry RFID chips aound daily. That card/FOB you use to get in buildings without sliding anything is RFID. Your dog or cat probably has one also. RFID chip is a passive device that only responds when scanned (it doesn't broadcast as the story suggests). These devices have extremely short ranges, and the smaller the chip, the smaller the range.

ermax18 says:

RFID is just an ID. If a hacker read it they would just have your ID number. What good is that? It isn't like it is broadcasting your SS# and Name and Bank routing number. I think this could be handy. Most newer cars use RFIDs in place of keys. It would be cool if your phone could replace the key. Or if you have an RFID badge at work, you could ditch it and go with the phone. You can even get RFID door locks for your home. When you want to get in, just hold you phone close to the lock. I am all about consolidating. This could do just that. My only concern is having my RFID tied to my name which Apple would probably do. The RFID would probably be attached to the phones serial which then gets attached to your iTunes account which is attached to your name. So retailers could track customers as you walk into their stores and stuff like that which I am not cool with. That is assuming Apple made this info public.

Maniacfive says:

I'm all for it, i love RFID, as soon as i can i'll happily get a rfid implant to turn on lights, unlock my screensaver etc. And hey, if it actually exists, i'm going to hell anyway, bring on the mark of the beast!
And also, the scare stories with RFID, if you know you have RFID with you, then its easy enough to hide the signal, wallets, passport holders etc that block it.

Joe McG says:

It's so funny how bad RFID stirs up consipiracy theorists. Chase credit card already uses a type of RFID called "Bing" which is embedded in your credit card, whether you know it or not.
Actually, there are two different RFID types. Passive RFID are tags which can be read with scanners (such as in a credit card, etc). Active RFID actually transmits the ID number, such as IPass or EZpass you use on the highway.
The passive type has a limited range (maybe a few meters, if that). The active type can be read from 10's or 100's of meters away.
You are right though, it isn't "transmitting" your cash and private info wirelessly.

bugs says:

rfid is such a poor security flawed, they have yet to find a way to seal the hole in credit cards with rfid.
yes for 8 bux you can hack personal info from an rfid iphone or a credit card.

BBYM#IM says:

@ Ermax18 iPhone can replace your car keys! It's called Viper Smart Start... They sell them at BestBuy...

Roger says:

As long as I could turn it on and off...

SilentSoul says:

I'll start designing a Faraday cage iPhone case right now. That might be the only way to really turn off all these signals. It would have to be like a holster that could hold the phone plus a slim protect case. just have to figure out how I would receive phone calls. Hmmmmm.....

Roamingrican says:

Apple is probably only making the "prototypes" with RFID so they can keep track of when one of these phones leaves the campus so there are no more snafus with "lost" prototypes and no more poor Chinese workers have to get dropped off a roof!

Paul says:

Most passive chips have less than a foot of range, and this when they are not obstructed. That is unless they are HUGE or your scanning device is pushing a LOT of power.

Jake says:

It's already too easy to spend money. No thanks.

Jose says:

you can't use it anyway because you'll need to remove your tinfoil helmet first! Mark of the beast rofl!!!! IT'S A PHONE

icebike says:

@Joe MG:
EZPass windshield stickers do not transmit. They are pulsed by over head transmitters, and simply re-radiate the energy of the pulse, just like all RFID tags.
As for finding your keys, that's not going to happen.
The amount of power you need to transmit to get keys in an un-known location to radiate a signal is beyond the capabilities of an iphone, and the antennas needed for directional detection would not fit in an iphone.
RFID chips are totally UN-Powered Re-radiators. Its nothing but a specially crafted antenna that returns a signal when it is hit with a radio wave pulse. They range from tiny to about the size of cell-phone boosters.
RFID readers devices require ACTIVE Transmitters: (scanning stations, EZpay terminals, etc).
RFID tagged devices are PASSIVE re-radiators (passports, easy-pay cards, tags in clothing on the rack, pet tracking chips, etc.)
Active detectors broadcast a pulse, and read the re-radiated return, (think radar) and at best can get a SMALL amount of data. A 20 digit number, a small url, or such.
You can flood a store with the pulses generated by a high power transmitter, and read the return from any RFID chip close enough. Apple might be able to read these.
The key word is that CLOSE usually is measured in inches.
Large high power transmitters combined with large RFID chips can read EZPasses from a few meters (seldom more than 20), from a car going thru a toll station at freeway speed.
Apple might be able to read these.
Small hand held readers using their own Pulse power can not generally read beyond a few inches. They are poor for searching for objects because they only know closeness, not direction. Your keys could be in your back pocket while you were thrashing thru the couch cushions. Apple would never be able to generate a large enough pulse for this to be of value.
Still there are people willing to park a van on a busy street and collect RFID data from your wallet as you walk by using a easily cobbled together transmitter.
There are some serious privacy concerns with RFID equipped credit cards and drivers licenses, etc. So much so that googleing "RFID Wallet" will deliver a quarter million hits and many products to protect your cards. I refuse to carry RFID credit cards.

SilentSoul says:

@Roamingrican Maybe, but wouldn't the GPS they already use be the best way to keep track of these phones location?

Liberty For ALL! says:

You don't want RFID in anything, watch Aaron Russo's documentary movie America: Freedom to Fascism
also see:
RFID? No thanks, Apple!

Rothacker says:

I have already thought "this would be nice to have" when checking out at the grocery store or getting into the office. Go for it apple.

Elric says:

Easily solved. It won't transmit until activated by an App.
If you want to leave it running, you're a tool

Elric says:

Let me tweet with Echophon!!!!!!

Lordzod01 says:

Oh hell yea!!! If I can use my iPhone to pay for my shopping instead of carrying cards then deffinatly. It can't be any worse than the current Uk system of entering your "private" pin number in front of a shop full of people and security cameras.

Sean Peters says:

@Paul: I don't have an ID badge with a an RFID tag (ours are swipe only, baby). My cats don't have them either, and in any case, I doubt very many people carry their cats around with them on a routine basis. I'm not at all keen on having my iPhone broadcasting any information about me to all and sundry, regardless of whether it's just some random number. My SSN is just a random number too, but you can use it to tap into all sorts of other information about me. If I can turn off the RFID thing, then I'm ok with it.

Roamingrican says:

@Silent soul a passive RFID chip does not need the phone to be powered on to use a gps chip does. Just sayin what I think their motivations may be but then again I am not El Jobso OR AM I?

Roamingrican says:

Besides you would want to know before it got out of the factory not after the tech spys get their grubby little tweakers on it!

JOSEPH says:


Sincityskulls says:

RFID could be cool in a phone. Imagine this...
You wake up and get ready for work. As you get ready to leave you grab your RFID enabled phone. As you exit your house the phone passes a device in the doorframe that reads the RFID tag and turns off all the lights, locks the door, and sets your alarm. At the same time your phone downloads the daily news, weather, and traffic for your drive.
As you get to your car, it unlocks and starts for you. You drive off to grab a coffe. When you get your coffe you just wave your phone and it's payed for.
You walk into work and set your phone down on your desk. The desk, using the RFID, automaticly turns on you desktop.
Now I know this is a bit overkill but the ideas are endless. I think the pros outway the cons if used smartly.

Mange says:

No, please no moar iphones!

iDroid says:

Sincityskulls has the ideals down pretty well, however, icebike and Paul have their points as well...
It's not hard to imagine a cottage industry making easily concealed RFID response loggers. Let's say one is placed conveniently outside Sincityskulls doorframe by Mr. Badguy. He leaves in the morning and the house locks itself, etc. The RFID response logger captures his RFID code ("it's just a number". So is the radio frequency code sent to open your garage door). Mr. Badguy retrieves the RFID logger, emulates Sincityskulls' arrival home, and is welcomed home by the semi-smart house. After cleaning out Sincityskulls' house, Mr. Badguy buys coffee and whatever else he likes with Sincityskulls' "just-a-number".
OK, yes, other measures would have to accompany using RFID ids to buy stuff, but that's the whole point. That's why you have to enter a PIN at the grocery store Lordzod01; the security is based on TWO things: some you HAVE (e.g. a card) plus something you KNOW (e.g. a PIN).

john citizen says:

i would dedicate a large portion of my spare time to fight this chip. People do not understand the long term consequences of this type of chip.For what? convenience?
Just use internet banking and ATM cards as we have been doing, why we have to be so lazy now so need to pay with an Iphone and get a chip that has potential to change society in terms of personal freedom.
Before long we will end up having it in our driver licenses, passports and if the banks have their way, we'll all get chipped with one implemented in our ; historic interview with Aaron Russo. He tells of admissions from Nicholas Rockefeller himself..its unreal..