While near-field communications (NFC), a type of radio typically used to provide near-instant mobile transaction processing, has been rumored for the iPhone for years now, most recently the upcoming iPhone 5, those rumors may once again fail to pan out come the expected September 12 Apple event. Brian Klug and Anand Lal Shimpi of AnandTech point at parts leaks to date, namely the new metal back plate, as an obvious piece of evidence against NFC:
Given the primarily metal backside of the new iPhone, it’s highly unlikely that NFC is in the cards for this generation. In fact, given the very little space at top and bottom dedicated to those glass RF windows, you can almost entirely rule it out.
And Jim Dalymple of The Loop adds in his trademark, consistently reliable:
Apple has already begun to experiment with mobile payments in the Apple Retail Store without NFC, and other uses for NFC, like direct data transfer, could still be handled over Bluetooth if that's something Apple's truly interested in exploring at this point.
Passbook, while an obvious front-end to an Apple wallet proper, is being introduced as a voucher and ticket repository in iOS 6, and nothing more.
Apple is a feature, not technology, driven company. If they decide to roll out mobile payments, they may or may not need NFC, and if they do, they'll include it under the covers and all we'll see is an ad showing Santa shopping at JC Penny just before the holidays.
Either way, if you were waiting on an NFC chip for the iPhone, it looks like you'll have to keep waiting.