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NFC Phones buying/warning guide

In my city, local buses use NFC technology, and soon my bank starts a virtual wallet service for NFC enabled handsets.
To participate all the available NFC based services, I buy that fancy NFC Phone on sale this week?
People have this kind of questions. Just looking at the list of all available NFC Phones doesn’t give an answer to such doubts. The contrary is true, the list can be misleading. ” Available NFC Phones ” is not the same as ” Phones enabled for local virtual wallet service “.

The ideal situation; Buy any NFC handset and you can participate (register for) any NFC service you like, worldwide.
Unfortunately, the practice is far from that. The opposite is true. Who knows one day in the future . . .
(It doesn’t matter you’re not interested in contactless payments, some people don’t like credit cards and use banknotes by the lack of golden coins. ;-) )
NFC can make your life easier. Soon we see 1001 NFC applications. The vast majority you won’t find interesting, but a few of them . . .

A table as a handy visual aid to see how it actually really is.
4 NFC Phones and 6 NFC services available in the city of Nice.

table nfc phones services(bientot=soon)
It doesn’t matter it’s from France. It’s the idea.

The point is, it’s Limited;

  • geographically
  • enabled Mobile Phones
  • available NFC services
  • accepting merchants

Limited because everything is only just beginning!
Not every available NFC enabled handset is always enabled for every NFC services everywhere.
And If the mobile Phone is enabled for service X, that doesn’t mean it’s also enabled for application Y.
We don’t talk just about do-it-yourself things.
It’s ;
1. The hardware = Mobile Phone with enabled! NFC. (just buy one)
2. The software = 2a; NFC supporting O.S. and 2b; app for desired service must be installed (you can find out/install yourself?)
3. You’re depending on business decisions, joint ventures, partnerships of your carrier, bank, credit card company, Google (all and/or) if you can participate their virtual wallet or ticketing service with your handset. Best example is the Nexus S, hardware and software no problem. But point 3 makes, that buying a Nexus S doesn’t guarantee you can participate every virtual wallet service you like (only Google wallet on Sprint in the US at the time being). And later . . ?

You need 1 + 2 + 3

To the point! you want to buy an NFC Phone;

For contactless payments

You are an early adopter and want to participate a local virtual wallet service.
Check out with local carrier or bank, buy the enabled Mobile Phone they provide. It’s possible other available NFC Phones can participate at a later stage, but . . we don’t have a cristal ball.
In practice (okt.2011); In the US you need the Nexus S from Sprint to use Google wallet.
In the UK, buy the tocco lite or Wave 578 to participate Quick Tap from Orange.
In France buy the Wave 578, Player City, Player One cityzi or LG EGO T530 to participate Cityzi in the city of Nice.
Many trials in many countries. Everywhere the same, we don’t know which phones will be enabled sooner or later.
Unfortunately all still very limited. Limited by technology and . . partnerships and politics of companies! Limited because everything is only just beginning.

For other NFC-based services

Actually we only find trials, like for example Deutsche-Bahn Touch&Travel, NFC-based ticketing. During the trial, Deutsche Bahn provided an NFC Phone with application to about 3000 testers. Officialy the test ended, but the service is just starting. A spokesman said the railway would expand the “touchpoints” to 320 long-distance stations in November 2011.
It’s unlikely they will give all passengers a Mobile Phone ;-) . Probably an NFC application to download for most popular NFC supporting Operation Systems? Android 2.3, Symbian Belle and BlackBerry 7? (update; Android app for NFC handsets available)
Here again, without clear information about requirements, buying that nice mobile Phone on sale this week, is no guarantee that you can participate later.

For other NFC applications

I like to write, NFC is much more than contactless payments. But that “much more” depends on software or apps. I think/hope we see more and more pre-installed NFC applications. Nokia says they want to bring NFC to mass market. The new handsets, 600, 603, 700 and 701 are enabled for sharing, pairing and tags. Gaming fans also benefit from Nokia NFC Phones. RIM announced BlackBerry Tag, NFC-based sharing. NFC really needs such helping hands at the moment.

Another helping hand can come from an army of app developers.
Here some numbers, just to have an idea. Of course these numbers change/grow every day.
Searched for NFC in each store;

  • Android app market, 600 apps (part about football)
  • Nokia OVI store, 10 apps (6 Symbian, 1 Meego, 3 football)
  • BlackBerry webstore, 5 apps (2 football)
  • Samsung apps, 0

It seems, standard from the factory, a Nokia can do the most NFC tricks. But you can buy an Android Phone with NFC enabled chip. And if desired, with so many available apps for android, your phone can be an NFC allrounder. In theory, do not forget there will be quite some teething problems here and there.

You already know what you really want to do with your handset? If it’s important, base your purchase on what’s available today!

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About the author

Joao Rostli

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