Analysts predict that the technology firm will build Near Field Communications (NFC) capability into the fifth iPhone release in June and the second iPad, which is due in February.

The move would bring Apple in line with Nokia, which is set to activate NFC technology in its C7 handsets later this year, and Google, which has NFC technology in its new Nexus S phone.

It is not known if Apple has formed retail partnerships yet but reports suggest that the company is willing to invest in payment terminals to enable use of the technology.

Mobile and retail brands have, up to now, resisted NFC technology because of concerns over financial and data security if customers lose or have their handset stolen, as well as the infrastructure costs of installing readers in retail outlets.

However, Barclaycard has partnered with Transport for London for its Oyster credit card, which uses NFC. The financial services company also announced a partnership with Orange last year.

O2 is also looking to develop NFC technology.