Teardowns of Apple’s new iPad Air 2 revealed an NFC chip that wasn’t officially announced by Apple, but sources close to the situation have confirmed it’s only being used as a Secure Element for Apple Pay in-app purchases.
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Apple describes the Secure Element on its website, which is used to securely store account numbers associated with credit cards for Apple Pay on both the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, according to our source: With Apple Pay, instead of using your actual credit and debit card numbers when you add your card to Passbook, a unique Device Account Number is assigned, encrypted, and securely stored in the Secure Element, a dedicated chip in iPhone. These numbers are never stored on Apple servers. And when you make a purchase, the Device Account Number, along with a transaction-specific dynamic security code, is used to process your payment. So your actual credit or debit card numbers are never shared by Apple with merchants or transmitted with payment.
Following a teardown of the iPad Air 2 (and iPad mini 3) revealing an NFC module similar to that present in the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, some speculated Apple could have future plans for the component that wasn’t officially announced as included in the new tablet. Some theorized that the NFC chip might be capable of allowing the new iPads to act as NFC-based terminals for receiving Apple Pay payments, for example.
While Apple Pay, Apple’s new payment service, is available for in-app purchases on the Touch ID-equipped iPad Air 2, the device isn’t capable of making contactless payments at NFC terminals like the new iPhones. The iPad Air 2 lacks NFC antennas included in the iPhones, and we now know the NFC chip found inside is only being used as a Secure Element for Apple Pay purchases in apps. In addition to the lack of an NFC antenna, iLounge points out that Apple didn’t seek certification for NFC functionality for iPad Air 2 with the FCC, something it would have been required to do for wireless communications.