Apple proposed granting third-party access to the iPhone’s NFC chip as part of its response to an ongoing EU antitrust probe. While not an admission of monopolistic behavior, the concession aims to quell regulators’ arguments that Apple Pay enjoys unfair competitive advantages.
The European Commission has argued for years that Apple illegally restricts tap-and-go payment rivals on iOS. Currently, only Apple Pay can access the iPhone’s NFC functionality for contactless transactions. Competitors allege this grants Apple an unfair monopoly over mobile payments.
In its defense, Apple insists iOS supports open banking standards and alternative wallets utilizing NFC remain possible. However, the company has maintained tight control over hardware-level NFC functionality exclusively for Apple Pay.
Now in a dramatic reversal, Apple seems willing to relinquish that preferential NFC treatment. The move coincides with accelerating regulatory pressure from EU investigations into alleged antitrust practices.
While significant, Apple granting third-party NFC access stops short of admitting monopoly culpability. Instead, the concession represents negotiating compromise amid legal pressures from EU regulators.
For antitrust investigators, NFC concessions mark a partial victory. However, the EU case also alleges issues around App Store commissions and Apple Music’s competitive advantage. Those facets of Apple’s ecosystem likely face increased scrutiny as probes advance.
In proposing NFC openness, Apple aims to pacify the strongest antitrust complaints without inviting further regulatory intervention. Only time will tell if unlocking tap-and-go functions sufficiently resolves competitive issues for payment services to appease regulators, offer marks Apple’s first real compromise during years of EU allegations.