The latest batch of leaked photos reportedly show a fully assembled front panel, complete with home button, front camera and a mystery part.
The iPhone 5 will sport the usual home button, front camera and a currently unidentified component that could be an NFC chip, according to AppleInsider.
Scouring photos posted by Taiwan-based blog Apple.pro (English translation), AppleInsider discovered a part that had not appeared in previous photos. The size of the part has led to speculation that it could be a chip for near-field communication (NFC).
Positioned next to the front camera, the square part matches the size of other NFC chips, such as the one made by NXP, AppleInsider noted. Of course, the photos by themselves don't prove anything, and even AppleInsider said that it "cannot verify the unknown part's origin or intended use".
However, sources told Japan-based blog site Macotakara that the next iPod Touch also displays a "mysterious hole" next to its camera, leading the Japanese Apple blog site to speculate that it could be used as a spot for an NFC chip.
Rumours have arisen that Apple may outfit its next-generation iPhone with NFC, giving it the ability to serve as "digital wallet" that enables consumers to pay for goods and services on the go.
Google has already jumped on the NFC bandwagon, equipping some of its mobile devices with the technology.
NFC has started to take off in Europe, but has yet to gain much traction in the United States. The mobile payment service requires the collaboration of several major players, including handset makers, mobile carriers and financial institutions. Consumers also have to be assured that NFC is a safe and secure process, and one that won't put their financial information at risk.
Still, an iPhone 5 equipped with NFC could go a long way towards furthering its acceptance and use among smartphone owners.