Will Steve Jobs Utter 'iPhone RFID' at the Apple Developers Conference?

Steve Jobs will give the keynote speech at Apples WWDCAs Apple's (AAPL) large and lofty Worldwide Developers Conference heads toward its Monday morning keynote speech with CEO Steve Jobs, much of the attention has focused on expectations of unveiling a fourth-generation iPhone.

But Locavore iPhone applications developer Buster Benson has his fingers crossed that such an announcement would also include a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip in a next-generation iPhone, or any iPhone for that matter.

"The one big hardware feature that I've been dying for is to have an RFID chip in every iPhone. The ability to use RFID to detect the presence of phones (and even identities, if you make that public) could really change the way we interact in social spaces," Benson says in an email interview. Benson developed Locavore, one of the more prominent applications on Apple's Apps for Cooks page.

And as Benson expands beyond developing applications that help consumers find in-season fruits and vegetables in their local communities and farmers markets, he's delaying the development of some new features to see whether Jobs will unveil an RFID iPhone plan. That affects not only his Locavore iPhone application but also a new app he's working on related to the health, diet and physical fitness market.

"I have been using the 4.0 SDK [software developers kit] for development of Locavore and the new app, as that has been made available to developers," he says. "But there are no hardware features that I know about yet that I'm eagerly chomping at the bit to develop for," says Benson, whose business receives a third of its revenue from sales of his Locavore iPhone application.

Jobs May Have Other Things Up His Sleeve

Apple has apparently considered using RFID in its products at least since 2005 when it filed a patent, according to a report on WatchingApple.com. And although nothing has emerged from Apple on the iPhone RFID front since then, developers nonetheless are considering the potential applications of such a device, as evidenced by a Touch research video that shows how an RFID iPhone could work.

Although RFID features may be lacking in a future iPhone 4G, other industry-watchers are betting Jobs will unveil a device that looks strikingly similar to the iPhone prototypes that leaked out earlier this year in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Vietnam. In the Bay Area case, technology website Gizmodo got its hands on a prototype, and here are a few things it expects based on dissecting the device: a front-facing video camera for chatting, a camera flash and a micro-SIM rather than a standard-sized SIM card.

Besides announcements that will be heavily weighted toward the iPhone, a new update for Apple's Safari browser could be unveiled. MacGeneration, a French website, cited Apple documents that reveal features for the next version of Safari. According to a translated version of the report, Safari 5 will include a Safari Reader, which aims to allow users to view articles on websites in "a single, clutter-free page."

How WWDC Benefits Developers

This feature may be especially useful to Apple's 2 million iPad users. The updated browser is also expected to run JavaScript 25% faster than Safari 4, which would boost the performance in loading Web pages quickly.

All this information will serve third-party developers well in boosting their ability to, like Benson, create applications or hardware to ride on Apple's products. That may explain why the event is sold out.

"I'm in the silent majority of people that are completely content with Apple's support," Benson says in sizing up his developer relationship with Apple. "They have gone above and beyond to help me market my app, build tools that make it easier for me to grow my business and have even called me to suggest new features to me that I might benefit by implementing. Sure, the wait for approval [of features] is a bit of a pain, but it's a small price to pay for having a company so dedicated to building and promoting their marketplace of apps."
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