The arrival of NFC in handsets has been talked about since the world was young, but big steps are finally being taken towards making its availability more widespread. Samsung’s new Galaxy Nexus device supports NFC through Google Wallet; RIM and Telefónica recently announced a new trial of the technology in Europe next year; and America’s big three networks have formed the ISIS alliance to enable a common architecture for NFC mobile payments.
When Nokia launched its new Lumia 710 and 800 handsets in October, it was widely expected that these devices would be the first Windows Phones to support NFC. Nokia had all but confirmed this itself when, last year, it stated that all of its 2011 smartphones would include NFC support.
When the Lumia handsets launched, many speculated that the absence of NFC might be due to a limitation of the operating system, particularly in light of comments made a week earlier by Andy Lees, the senior Microsoft executive in charge of Windows Phone. He said: “Microsoft is providing technological building blocks so payments can be done on the phone”, which was widely interpreted as an admission that NFC was something of a work-in-progress.
But it seems that that assumption was wrong. In an interview on Windows Phone with TechRadar, Will Coleman, product manager at Microsoft UK, said that “NFC is supported by it, but needs to be enabled by the OEM. So if any [manufacturer] wants to enable it, that can be done by all means.”
There have been rumours that Microsoft is working on an NFC payment platform to rival Google Wallet, while this week, it was suggested that NFC will soon play a part in how Microsoft devices communicate with each other. Coleman didn’t spill the beans on any specifics, but did say that “in the not too distant future, there are some exciting things that will be coming through with NFC from Microsoft.”
Nokia maintains that the absence of NFC from its Lumia 710 and 800 devices was simply a reality of the limited development time for the products, but that the technology remains a key part of its plans for future models, particularly as a greater number of operators begin to gear up for NFC services. Keith Varty, Nokia’s head of apps and partnerships, stated: “We need to get a [Windows Phone] device into the marketplace with NFC capabilities, and when we do we can really start to showcase our services.”
So it looks like we’re still at the stage of NFC’s development where the best is yet to come, but with the pace of development finally accelerating across the industry, it appears that we won’t have too much longer to wait. How long Windows Phone users have to wait for NFC is a different matter - with the confirmation that the technology is already supported by the OS, the decision to launch devices with it on board now rests solely with the manufacturers.
Original image via Forbes