Apple's recent hiring of Benjamin Vigier, an expert in near-field communications, led many to wonder if the next iPhone could also be our next wallet. According to TechCrunch, Apple's already testing prototypes of just such a proximity-aware iPhone.
According to TechCrunch's sources, Apple's testing contactless payment-capable iPhones equipped with hardware from NXP Semiconductor, suggesting that such functionality is definitely something they're working on for inclusion in the next iPhone.
In addition to contactless payment, which is kind of cool, TechCrunch points to patents that suggest Apple's interests in using near-field wireless for transferring files from device to device - say videos shot on an iPhone to a new AppleTV - which would be very cool.
In the hubbub following Mark Papermaster's departure from Apple, it came out that the iPhone 4 had likely entered prototype testing before he was even at the company, so if Apple is indeed planning on making the next iPhone near field capable, now's the time they'd be testing them out. [TechCrunch]