iPhone 5 rumors already percolating

iPhone 5 – the next-generation Apple iPhone – may get NFC technology for credit card-like in-store payments.

iPhone 5 rumors are spreading across the blogosphere. Here, the Apple iPhone 4.

Rumors, buzz, release, repeat. For the past few years, most Apple releases have followed that simple (and predictable) formula – rumors build (most of them correct); the buzz roars through the blogosphere; Apple finally launches the device in question, quashing all speculation; and then a new device looms on the horizon, which provides plenty of grist for the tech gossip mill.

The last couple cycles have been big ones: The iPhone 4, the Verizon iPhone, the iPad 2. And now, it looks like we're ready to start the cycle up all over again. According to a handful of new reports, the Apple iPhone 5 – which would presumably be released sometime this summer – is already in the works, and the next generation iPhone could be equipped by Apple with NFC technology.

ALSO SEE: Verizon iPhone? Check. Sprint and T-Mobile iPhone? Maybe.

NFC – the acronym stands for near field technology – allows users to "swipe" their smartphones, as they do with credit cards or subway passes. (The Nexus S smartphone is already equipped with NFC tech.) An example: You could use your smartphone to pay for groceries at the supermarket; the NFC unit in the phone would interface with a receiver at the store, and your bank account would be charged automatically.

Fun! (And a little scary.) Over at Forbes, Elizabeth Woyke says manufacturers are "gearing up for the additional NFC traffic the iPhone 5 will bring."

"From what I hear, it is possible the iPhone 5 will include NFC. An entrepreneur who is working on a top-secret NFC product told me today that he believes the iPhone 5 will have NFC and cited a friend who works at Apple as a reliable source for the information," Woyke writes. "To further bolster his statement, the entrepreneur said that manufacturers of NFC readers – whom he has been talking to for his own product – also expect the iPhone 5 to have NFC."

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