With the release of iOS 8.1, Apple Pay is now live in the US, and if you’ve got an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, that means that everything’s ready to go for you to start making some contactless mobile payments at retailer terminals. At least, that’s the situation on the new iPhones (above), but it’s a different story for Apple’s latest tablets: right up until launch we were unsure if the Air 2 and mini 3 would have NFC payment capabilities of their own, or if their larger sizes would preclude them from participation in this project. While we’ve since learned that neither model is NFC-capable, recent teardowns have uncovered the presence of an NFC controller chip on both tablets – what the heck is going on?
Yes, the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 both have an NFC chip. But when you’re making mobile payments (or just connecting to other NFC devices in general) that’s only half the equation: you also need an NFC antenna. And while that NFC chip is present, neither new iPad packs the required antenna hardware, rendering them incapable of such operation.
So why is there an NFC chip at all, if it can’t be used for NFC? Two words: secure element. The NFC chip acts as secure storage of payment-related details, and even if you’re not using them for contactless payments in retail stores, Apple Pay can still draw upon that secure data for processing payments sent online. That’s reportedly why the NFC chips are present in these devices, even if their full capabilities are going unused.
Source: 9to5 Mac