There sure have been a lot of people getting excited about NFC, with Google, Research In Motion (RIM), Samsung and others stating they would be supporting it.
But most people have misread this as momentum for mobile payments. It is not. The primary NFC use case right now has nothing to do with mobile payments. Interestingly, those seen as the primary players have up to this point said nothing to debunk NFC mobile payments. Until last week.
Last week, Near Field Communications World posted an interesting piece based on a session from Google I/O called “How To NFC” (NFC World article http://bit.ly/lwcSUP Google NFC session http://bit.ly/lOPyGl ).
The session revealed the most significant NFC mobile payment news of 2011. And nobody realized it.
According to Google NFC team members Nick Pelly and Jeff Hamilton, while the Android Gingerbread release does supply third party APIs to NFC capabilities, it does NOT support NFC APIs for card emulation (mobile payments). Neither will the “Ice Cream Sandwich” release which is slated to launch at the end of 2011. That means no Google third party APIs for mobile payments are likely until sometime in 2013.
While NFC mobile payment APIs for third party developers are not really even the use case for NFC mobile payments, it doesn’t change the fact that Google sees issues with NFC mobile payments right now. Pelly and Hamilton cited a lack of standards for card emulation as the reason Google won’t support an NFC mobile payments API yet. We have heard this before – from Apple, as to why iPhone 5 (now 4S) won’t support NFC. Research In Motion (RIM) has not said specifically they will support NFC mobile payments either.
What has got Google and RIM excited about NFC technology is how it can explode the possibilities for third party app developers, where standards and authentication are not a factor. Google demoed a variety of use cases for P2P sharing of content, including apps, contacts, photos and more. RIM has done so as well, and I have heard similar stories from representatives from France Telecom’s Orange.
There is evidence that NFC protocol interoperability or standardization will have to take place before handset manufacturers will be willing to produce NFC phones that support card emulation in significant numbers. That thought is certainly supported by the merchants, who will either require a standardized solution for POS or a vendor who can normalize different NFC technologies at POS. Result – no significant uptake of NFC mobile payments until maybe 2013.