Some digging around the hardware code dump of iPhone 5 prototypes has revealed that there's an NFC antenna somewhere inside. The near field communications controllers are directly connected to the power management unit according to the code, but as always, there's no saying if the feature will make it to a final release this fall. It's also worth noting that we've heard about an NFC-enabled iPhone since before the 4S, and we can all see how those rumors panned out.
Apple has certainly set the stage for NFC in iOS 6 with Passbook, which in its current state will enable unified mobile ticketing with barcodes. With the addition of NFC, tickets and transactions could be done just by tapping your iPhone 5 on a sensor, as opposed to having the cashier scan your phone. It would be hard to imagine Apple launching a smartphone in the fall without NFC included; even if the standard is far from commonplace for transactions, Apple's support may push retailers and financial institutions to make the leap. Currently retailers are lot more interested in investing in mobile swipe readers like Square and PayPal Here rather than NFC terminals, likely because it enables them to take their business to new areas and compatibility with customers is way less of an issue. Like many of the iOS 6 features at WWDC, NFC is another point where Android has managed to outpace the iPhone, but it's still early enough in the mobile transactions game that Apple hasn't really missed out on any of the action.
Speaking of which, Apple would be in a fine position to take a cut of every NFC payment, especially if they force app developers to plug into the Passbook app in order to access the antenna. Have you guys ever found yourself itching for NFC in your iPhone? Has Android really had much of a leg-up by having the function this long? What are the odds that Apple will include NFC in the iPhone 5?