Right now it’s the best of times for mobile payment companies, with new ideas and startups cropping up what seems like daily.When and if Apple announces NFC-equipped iPhones, it might become the worst of times.

One of the big iPhone rumors (don’t worry, it’s not a stylus) is whether or not Apple will go “all in” on the payments game. It’s set itself up pretty well with its Passbook app, which is designed to store all kinds of information from plane tickets to loyalty cards, but not optimized to let consumers actually complete the act of paying for something. It’s a cautious, “wait and see” approach that is actually quite smart of Apple — it can sit back and watch while startups like mine cage-match it out to become the top mobile payment network. And as Apple often does, it can choose to arrive at the cage-match with a stun gun.

This year’s rumored weapon of choice: NFC. Let’s look at a world where the next iPhone has NFC, and one where it does not. What will happen to the rest of the mobile payment ecosystem? Scenario 1: iPhone with NFC Headline: Here’s How The New iPhone Will Kill Every Mobile Payment Provider The immediate scene: Apple CEO Tim Cook unveils the new NFC-equipped iPhone. If there were TV crews capturing mobile payment CEOs throughout the US as this moment happened, it would be like a night at the Oscars where no one had remembered to prepare a phony reaction for when they lost.

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A tale of two iPhones — what an NFC-equipped iPhone would do to the mobile payments market

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