Nokia Unveils First Windows Phone 8 Devices with NFC, Though no Word on Wallet Yet
Nokia today introduced its first two devices running Windows Phone 8 and, as expected, both support NFC.
Nokia and Microsoft demonstrated the much-anticipated devices–the high-end Lumia 920 and mid-range Lumia 820–at an event in New York today.
The 90-minute presentation focused mostly on Nokia’s high-tech PureView camera technology and related photo and augmented-reality applications, as well as new wireless charging devices for the Lumia phones. The augmented reality feature, called Nokia City Lens, enables users to point the camera of the Lumia 920 at buildings and see an overlay of information about restaurants, shops, hotels and other establishments.
Nokia and Microsoft spent little time on NFC during the presentation, but Nokia did demonstrate syncing of the Windows 8 phones with JBL-brand speakers from U.S.-based Harman International.
Using NFC to quickly open up a Bluetooth connection, users can play music on the phones then tap to transfer the music to the speaker.
Nokia announced the NFC-enabled JBL “PlayUp” portable speakers last week. And today it demonstrated a larger NFC-enabled speaker from Harman, the JBL “PowerUp” speaker that also can be used for wireless charging via a separate technology.
Nokia, which Tuesday announced it was expanding its free music-streaming service to the U.S., also demonstrated NFC device pairing between a Lumia Windows Phone 8 device and stereo headsets.
In a separate operation, it also reportedly showed a tap-to-share application for exchanging photos between two phones, using NFC’s peer-to-peer communication feature.
No Word Yet on Wallet
But missing from today’s presentation was mention of using NFC for payment or other mobile-commerce applications.
Microsoft in June unveiled its digital wallet for Windows Phone 8 at its Windows Phone Summit in San Francisco, with Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore noting at the time that among the wallet applications will be payment services stored on SIM cards. Belfiore, who spoke during the presentation today, however, did not mention the Microsoft wallet.
Nokia and Microsoft likely consider the high-tech camera and charging technology and related apps, which dominated today’s unveiling, as more compelling than the wallet.
There is little doubt that the two new Lumia phones will support SIM cards as a secure element, however, and almost certainly will support the wallet.
Nokia's Support for SWP SIMs
France Telecom-Orange, among the most aggressive operators worldwide in rolling out NFC, said it would use the Microsoft wallet on its Windows Phone 8 NFC devices in France. And Microsoft said in June it is also working in the U.S. with the Isis joint venture for some type of launch on Windows smartphones next year, after Isis’ initial launch, according to Belfiore. Both France Telecom and Isis are using or plan to use SIM cards as secure elements for their NFC rollouts.
Isis plans a two-city trial this summer of its Isis Wallet. Microsoft is expected to ship Windows Phone 8 in the fall.
Before he left last month as Nokia’s lead program manager for mobile payments and NFC, Andrea Bacioccola noted that Nokia’s last three NFC phones–the Symbian-based 603 and 808 PureView, along with the Lumia 610, which runs a version of Windows Phone 7.5 adapted for NFC–all support SIM-based NFC. And all have been certified by international payment schemes for use with SIMs supporting the single-wire protocol.
But the new Lumia phones probably don’t also come with an embedded secure chip.
Bacioccola said earlier that Nokia is supporting the business model of mobile operators, which uses the SIM as the secure element.
When reached today by NFC Times, Bacioccola declined to comment on the Nokia launch of the Windows Phone 8 devices, since he is no longer with the phone maker.
But he said his departure has nothing to do with Nokia’s position on NFC. He said he left Nokia to join Sweden-based management consulting firm Northstream.
Bacioccola replaced Jeremy Belostock as NFC lead at Nokia around January or February of 2012. Belostock left Nokia and took up a position outside of the NFC industry, as head of group strategy with France-based mailroom equipment maker Neopost.
“This was purely my decision and was not connected in any way to Nokia restructuring or any change in Nokia’s commitment to NFC,” Bacioccola said.
UPDATE: Nokia's Windows Phone play is considered make or break for the troubled company. Investors, however, were not impressed by the new phones, sending shares of the Finland-based phone maker down by nearly 16% Wednesday. END UPDATE.