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The chatter coming from the industry near the end of last year was that 2011 would be when mobile card acceptance and payments finally emerge as legitimate experiences for consumers and merchants in the United States.

That proved to be partly true.

Companies such as Square Inc. and Starbucks Corp. made waves in the market without relying on Near Field Communication, which some say is necessary for mobile payments to emerge on a wide scale. Google Inc. launched its wallet, albeit in a limited rollout. Isis gained pivotal partnerships with key industry players but has yet to test its wallet. And PayPal Inc. announced a comprehensive mobile approach designed to change the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, mostly without NFC.

Sales of NFC handsets in 2012 will reach nearly 80 million, an increase of 129% from this year, according to a recent prediction from United Kingdom-based IMS Research.

If Apple launches an NFC-enabled iPhone, “it might by itself create a breakthrough with NFC because Apple alone could make the market, in a sense, given their market share and consumer effect,” says Todd Ablowitz, an emerging-payments consultant and president of Double Diamond Group in Centennial, Colo.

Indeed, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Nov. 15 published 31 patents granted to Apple related to NFC technology and what appears to be a new location service that uses the global positioning system.

Payments Source, December 29, 2011