Turns out, the monster-of-a-tablet iPad Air 2 has actually been very modest about its specs. The device does sport an NFC chip, and this raises a few eyebrows. You see, Apple never marketed, let alone mentioned this addition to the tablet’s hardware.
The chip is exactly like the one found in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and Apple’s new payment service is completely centered around it. Apple Pay was entirely designed to take advantage of this very small chip, and to find this included in the iPad Air 2 comes as a surprise, and it’s evident on Apple’s very own website that the new tablets can’t make contactless payments.
It is likely that Apple may activate this hardware in the near future, once the Apple Pay system has matured enough. Apple Pay is currently supported at big business and retail stores, as Apple looks to enter into partnerships with more big chains across the U.S., and later on internationally as well.
Small businesses are increasingly deploying an iPad or two to serve as cash registers in conjunction with a credit / debit card reader, or processing services such as Square. Activation of the NFC chip, and consequently Apple Pay, will allow these businesses to process payments through the iPad alone, without the need for additional hardware.
However, this system will not replace existing credit card implementations, but will rather compliment it for use by small businesses. Currently, contactless payments via Apple Pay are only initiated through the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, severely limiting distribution, hence businesses will have to be able to process traditional credit / debit cards. More so, processing arrangements from a bank, or services such as Square, will also be required.
Apple Pay has begun rolling out with official acceptance at only large retailers, which severely limits its applicability. However, Apple Pay is no mystical service, and it does operate through the NFC chip found in the iPhone 6 / 6 Plus, so users can still make contactless payments at any store accepting such payments. However, the service will eventually evolve with growing support, and maybe we will see an update hit the iPad Air 2, enabling Apple Pay at the right time.
Also, according to MacRumors, the iPad Air 2 does not ship with built-in NFC antennas, so contactless payments could be out of the question. But, it’s likely that the NFC chip is there in place to store Apple Pay data.