Apple will be ready to accept Near Field Communication payments from phones in its stores, even though none of its consumer devices support NFC out of the box.
The shell will include an NFC reader just above the PIN keypad on the back of the device that will allow consumers with NFC-enabled phones to exchange information with Apple at the point of sale, according to Forbes.
Apple has already started its rollout for employees to use the iPhone 5s shell, which accepts EMV chip-and-PIN and chip-and-signature transactions, as well as mag-stripe payments. It also provides improved technology for scanning codes from a consumer's Passbook app, 9to5Mac reports.
In October of 2012, Apple updated EasyPay to allow its employees to accept Apple Store payment card codes from a customer's iPhone or iPad, thus allowing purchases from Apple gift cards loaded into the Passbook app.
VeriFone confirmed the development of the new EasyPay shell, but would not comment further on the deal with Apple.
The deployment does not suggest Apple will finally incorporate NFC into its iPhone products, says Richard Crone, chief executive of San Carlos, Calif.-based payments consulting firm Crone Consulting LLC.
Apple has been using EasyPay for three years in its retail store and the upgrade doesn't change much for the consumer, Crone says. "All they are doing is using a new shell that will accommodate EMV and NFC, but it doesn't signal anything about NFC inside of an iPhone or any change in direction of the consumer-facing EasyPay."
Even though the deal with VeriFone focuses on payment acceptance, it demonstrates a way for Apple to make its phones NFC-capable, says Pradeep Moudgal, director of emerging technologies advisory services for Boston-based Mercator Advisory Group.
"The NFC capability [on the shell] is the most intriguing," Moudgal says. "Everyone is always asking when Apple is going to join the fray [of NFC payments], and I have used NFC capable shells on an iPhone in the past."
Earlier this year, the mobile wallet provider Isis began offering the Incipio Cashwrap sleeve, which adds NFC payment capabilities to iPhones. Isis is a venture of AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile.
As NFC evolves, Apple could support the technology in any manner it chooses, Moudgal says.
Apple has 800 million iTunes accounts, mostly with credit cards, positioning it well for an overt move into the payments industry.