A fresh rumor that Apple Inc.'s next iPhone will include Near Field Communication is producing more yawns than gasps.

The latest hint that an NFC-equipped iPhone is on its way to the market as early as this fall surfaced on tech websites June 25, sparking a ripple of reports that so far has failed to wow analysts.

The website 925mac.com reported that its latest investigations from a recent "hardware code dump" gleaned from data associated with new Apple handset prototypes suggest the iPhone 5 launching in September or October will contain an NFC chip and an antenna.

If it happens, Apple could be neck-and-neck with Microsoft Corp. in supporting NFC phones this fall. Microsoft on June 20 said its new Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system will include NFC and a wallet for storing software-based card data.

But Apple doused hopes for an imminent NFC-based iPhone when it instead announced Passbook on June 11, a mobile-wallet application that relies on two-dimensional barcode technology.  The new app for iPhone's iOS 6 operating system due out this fall would enable consumers to store and organize various cards and tickets within their phones.

Industry observers were eager to see iPhone launch an NFC phone as early as 2011, but expectations have waned with each Apple announcement lacking any mention of NFC.

"It's obviously possible that Apple could include NFC and the whole nine yards for payments in the next iPhone, but I'm doubting it," Aaron McPherson, practice director with IDC Insights, said in an interview. "It's reached the point where it's news every time Apple doesn't announce an NFC phone."

Apple's decision to unveil an application this fall that uses two-dimensional bar code technology seems to augur against an immediate NFC innovation, McPherson adds, but he would not rule out the possibility that Apple could surprise everyone.

"Apple may be future-proofing its designs so that if at some point in the future they want to add NFC to phones, they can. But for some it's all just a lot of speculation with no proof," McPherson says.

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