Near Field Communication – Hit or Miss?

November 27, 2012

Near Field Communication (NFC) isn’t new technology, but it’s making new advances within the mobile industry. The first NFC-enabled phone was the Nokia 6131, launched in 2006, while Samsung released the first Android phone – Samsung Nexus S – with NFC functionality in 2010. The technology allows phones with the same in-built NFC functionality to share contacts, media files and other information and it’s also been made popular as a method of cashless payment. This is not unlike Bluetooth, as you may have already thought, it’s just a little bit on the slower side and doesn’t require any pairing.

To be honest, our team members haven’t felt much of a need to use this service, but perhaps the future of mobile handsets will change that. Many mobile handsets now have NFC built into their functionality, but top sellers Samsung Galaxy SIII and the iPhone 5 have opted not to include the technology. With Apple in particular, anything they do always raises an eyebrow and gets people thinking. It’s no secret that they’ve pioneered the advances within mobile and a lot of what they do is mimicked in some way, shape or form by other providers. So if they don’t adopt this technology, does that mean it’s already stale and not worth investing in?


Advantages of NFC

There’s a lot to be said about NFC, even if it’s not something that Apple are interested in. NFC Tags – programmable electronic disks – allow NFC phones to complete a range of commands. Aside from the above-mentioned functions, these commands allow you to use NFC to unlock doors without a key, switching to Wi-Fi when entering a building and enabling hands-free when getting into your car.

Forrester Research analyst Thomas Husson says, “The key long-term driver for NFC technology is that it can enable many new product and service experiences beyond just mobile contactless payments. The list of new use cases is long: convenient transport experiences, next-generation shopping experiences, authentication and identity management solutions, or immersive marketing experiences.”


Many benefits, little uptake

So why aren’t people clambering over each other to use it? Apparently it’s slow to move because it’s still in its infancy and there is still more to be seen where this technology is concerned.

From Apple’s perspective, battery life might’ve had a large part to play in their decision not to include NFC in their iPhone 5; the Wall Street Journal shared this comment: “Apple engineers experimented with both NFC and Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy options, but were concerned that the inclusion of an NFC chip and its antenna would adversely affect battery life. The slow rate of NFC’s adoption was also said to be an issue, with Apple hesitant to adopt a technology that would only be available at a small number of retailers.”

There is also talk of Apple developing their own version of the technology, which would account for them not finding it necessary to incorporate NFC into their handsets. This will be interesting and could be the impetus that others need to actively use and experiment with NFC. What are your thoughts on the subject?

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