NFC No Longer Needs Apple and the iPhone

A year ago the popular assumption was that NFC was dead because it was not included by Apple in its then new iPhone 5.  I am still seeing this as a topic of discussion with the announcement last week of the iPhone 5S (and 5C) and the fact that ocne again Apple has missed an opportunity to demonstrate its as a market leader in this space.  However, for me it is no longer a relevant question and those that argue so are a) being a little lazy, and b) ignoring the facts.

12 months ago people were worried and concerned that NFC needed Apple to act as the trigger to launch NFC into primetime.  There were on-going delays in launching the product as MNOs' strategies were stifling the market.  You could argue that this is the case to a degree already but with over half a billion devices in use in 1H13 the argument has moved on from getting devices into the marketplace and the hands of consumers.

NFC-enabled smartphones (and other devices) are everywhere now; it is only Apple that has not introduced it into its range (and I will be writing more about why this is in upcoming insights within ABI Research's NFC Service).  I have talked previously about why this is not a dealbreaker and this remains the case.  Apple's reach is not infinite and whilst it would certainly prove a shot in the arm to service providers and app developers looking to go mass market there remain plenty of options with Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone all supporting it across a range of models and price points.

Yes, there remain only a handful of payment applications available globally but the ramp up in devices has seen renewed interest from service partners for MNOs and I expect to see an increasing number of agreements announced in the coming 6-12 months as commercial services launch.  There have already been such announcements in the US, Poland, Tukey, Spain, France, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Thailand, Singapore and Japan (amongst others), in addition to the success evident in Korea.

This is not to say that everything is perfect, Apple abstaining is still a barrier but more importantly there remains a bottleneck.  Where this related to devices a year ago, now the issue is the business models being offered by MNOs.  There still remains a lack of openess and a fear of enabling "outsiders" to enter this market place.  The air of protectionism is never one to breed optimism and encourage partners to push ahead.  Those banks and other service providers that have done so to date have been looking to the future, with an aim of encouraging users to adopt such services regardless of the largely unfavouable business models that they have had to agree to.  Hopefully this will change as those services already announced expand and attract more users and add more functionality.