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Will mobile payments be central to Apple's iPhone 6?

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Will Apple be smart enough to strike while the iron is hot in mobile payments?

Analysts at Morgan Stanley seem to think so.

With marketers sensing the powerful opportunities latent in the prospective coupling of mobile marketing and NFC technology, a new report from Morgan Stanley is generating substantial buzz today.

Morgan Stanley analysts Craig Hettenbach, Joseph Moore, Katy Huberty, Smittipon Srethapramote, and Betsy Graseck think there’s a good chance Apple will bring Near Field Communications (NFC) technology to a future iPhone.

In their new group report, the analysts suggest that the mobile payments market is growing so fast that any further delays by Apple to jump into this market will ultimately be bad for business.

The authors think it reasonable to assume Apple is going to soon introduce NFC in its mobile devices, after the technology has been on Google (GOOG) Android-based devices for some years, writing “Historically, Apple tends to adopt new technologies after initial growing pains are worked out, and as they are about to reach an inflection point in adoption.”

“Mobile payments is a major opportunity for Apple to improve user experiences and potentially add a new revenue stream,” Huberty is quoted by Barron’s. “The company has historically been very good at integrating hardware and software, and we believe it can further differentiate itself and increase/preserve the value of its devices by adding services. Mobile payments can help Apple collect more data on consumers in order to create more relevant and useful recommendations and advertisements, and create additional revenue opportunities for developers and other partners, especially brick-and-mortar retail.”

As of this writing, however, very little evidence has emerged from Apple’s supply and manufacturing partners to indicate that the iPhone 6 will pack NFC technology. But with mobile payments heating up, the pressure is on Apple to act fast.

“Over the last few decades,” say the trusted mobile payments experts on the PayAnywhere blog, “cash has gradually fallen out of favor amongst consumers at large. Currently, two-thirds of the public prefer to make payments via credit and debit cards. In the near future, another form of payment is set to further squeeze cash right out of the loop.”

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