Apple’s September “Special Event” for 2021 (video below) has followed the theme of the past ten years with the announcement of new iPhone models including the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max (whew!), complementing Apple’s announcement of iOS 15 in June. Like all iPhones since the iPhone 7, released in 2016 alongside iOS 11, the new iPhones feature native software and hardware support for NFC functionality. While the iPhone 6 supported NFC for contactless payment only via Apple Pay, previous iPhones did not support NFC. This lack of NFC capabilities contrasted with Google’s Android devices, which had adopted NFC hardware and software support in late 2010 and has been included in almost all Android phones since.
There is a long list of formerly denigrated technologies that have since become key components of the modern world. The bicycle, the car, answering machines, and laptops were all considered dubious fads when they first emerged. In each case, it took some calamity, innovation, or critical mass of adoption before they wormed their way into the realm of the essential.
Over the past fifteen months, it’s become clear that while global supply chains are efficient, they’re also brittle. Unprecedented demand patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic led to shortages of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and N95 masks, and the pandemic disrupted labor markets and production. Pandemic disruptions have now revealed a brittleness in semiconductor supply chains that has been building for at least two decades, putting nearly all chips used in consumer products and industrial and commercial processes in short supply. Automotive ECUs, microcontrollers for factory automation, medical devices, gaming consoles, smart toasters—nearly everything requiring semiconductors—are affected.