While rumors suggest that Apple won't include Near Field Communication (NFC) technology in the next iPhone, Google is pushing forward with its NFC plans. In fact, the company plans to start testing an NFC system next quarter, according to Bloomberg:
Google Inc. (GOOG) plans to start testing a mobile-payment service at stores in New York and San Francisco within four months, letting shoppers use their phones to ring up purchases, two people familiar with the project said. The company will pay for installation of thousands of special cash-register systems from VeriFone Systems Inc. (PAY) at merchant locations, said one of the people, who requested anonymity because Google's plans haven't been made public. The registers would accept payments from mobile phones equipped with so-called near-field-communication technology.

NFC gives consumers an alternative to cash, debit cards, and credit cards by allowing them to pay for products and services by tapping their mobile device against a register at checkout. Google is not the only company working on mobile payment methods, but given Android's growing dominance, the search giant has an opportunity to set the bar high.

NFC technology adoption is widely anticipated to ramp up this year: both Nokia and RIM are looking to bring devices with it to the market. When Google officially introduced Android 2.3 and the Nexus S late last year, NFC support was included. Although most Android phones don't have NFC built-in right now, Google was clear that it believes future phones should have it.