An Apple patent has revealed an e-wallet icon which could be set to become a staple of the iPhone 5's homescreen.

The unassuming little icon isn't seen in all its colourful glory, but its presence in the patent strongly suggests that we'll see NFC built in to the iPhone 5.

This is no new rumour, however. Inklings of NFC for the iPhone 5 have been felt since Apple hired Benjamin Vigier as Product Manager of Mobile Commerce last summer.

Playing catch-up to Android

With NFC on board, users will be able to use their handsets to make contactless payments by swiping your phone instead of an Oyster or credit card.

The Android Gingerbread-toting Google Nexus S already comes with NFC on board, and the latest update has upgraded it to be able to write information as well as read it, so it can now also provide e-wallet-type capabilities.

Of course, the presence of the e-wallet icon confirms nothing and could all be the patent application team's idea of a hilarious joke.

Still, the signs do seem to be pointing to a NFC-toting iPhone 5 – we should find out for sure in June.

Via Patently Apple and Electric Pig