With the Nexus S already on sale, Apple has lost its opportunity to be first to the US market with an NFC-enabled device; still, that doesn't mean the company can't make a better job of it than Google has (and perhaps even convince users that Cupertino got there first). According to Richard Doherty, of consulting firm Envisioneering Group, the iPhone 5 and iPad 2 will both support NFC, used to make wireless purchases.
It's not the first time we've heard of Apple's NFC plans - the company also has a fair few NFC patents describing potential uses of the technology - but Doherty claims to have got his info from Apple engineers working on hardware for the project. They're confirming the 2011 launch window in the next significant refresh of the flagship mobile devices.
The exact nature of the Apple NFC functionality is unknown, but Doherty suggests that iTunes will undergo a significant refresh so as to maintain credit card details, loyalty points and store credits accrued while shopping or by referring friends. Meanwhile, the company is also supposedly preparing an NFC payment terminal for small businesses, which would be heavily subsidized or even given away free so as to accelerate NFC market penetration in the US.