Forget Apple; Waiting for Android and Symbian

Anssi Vanjoki is reportedly the man who chose Nokia’s signature ring-tone–once so ubiquitous it was difficult to get through a day without hearing it several times, chiming from subscribers’ pockets.

But if Vanjoki delivers on his promise to bring NFC to Nokia’s Symbian smartphones starting next year, I’m sure most people in the industry would forgive him for the tune.

Vanjoki, the man Nokia has called upon to bring back the company’s troubled smartphone unit, announced June 17 that the Finland-based handset maker would begin to include NFC in its Symbian smartphones announced in 2011.

Vanjoki made the disclosure just a day after Nokia issued a profit warning in advance of its Q2 earnings report, advising investors that sales and market share would be lower than projected. That was due in large part to the losing battle Nokia has been waging against Apple’s iPhone, RIM’s BlackBerry and, increasingly, phones supporting the Android platform.

That Vanjoki–who will head Nokia’s new Mobile Solutions division following corporate restructuring–is tapping NFC to help breathe life into the smartphone business shows he believes the technology can sell higher-end handsets.

Details, however, were sketchy on the Symbian NFC rollout, including which quarter Nokia planned to ship its first NFC-enabled smartphones. And the announcement did not cover the smartphone/tablet devices Nokia plans to launch using its MeeGo platform developed with Intel, according to a company spokesman.

But if Vanjoki intends to use NFC to differentiate the phone maker’s devices against those of its rivals, he might not have much of a window of opportunity.

Though Apple passed on putting NFC in its the fourth-generation iPhone, introduced June 7, most observers believe the 2011 version will support the technology. RIM is also working on NFC for some future BlackBerry models, sources agree.

Never mind Apple, however. More certain still will be the arrival of NFC smartphones supporting Google’s Android operating system. Sources working on the platform predict “several” models will be launched by the first part of 2011, with at least a couple of models surfacing before the end of this year, they predict.

The Android handset makers are responding to demand from mobile operators for high-end phones packing NFC. Even giant China Mobile is interested, NFC Times has learned.

Putting NFC in the OPhone
Beijing-based software company Borqs, which has developed a customized version of Android for China Mobile, called OPhone, has produced a couple of prototypes supporting NFC, said sources.

Borqs got a request from China Mobile two or three months ago to start incorporating NFC in the OPhone platform, NFC Times has learned. If China Mobile gives the green light to the inclusion of NFC, such handset makers as Samsung, LG, Motorola or HTC could develop the NFC-based smartphones for the telco.

The increasing interest by China Mobile in NFC puts another nail in the coffin of the RF-SIM project, the telco’s abortive attempt to roll out its own contactless SIMs and reader infrastructure, a pullback you first read about here.

A number of other mobile operators are interested in Android-based NFC phones, including South Korea’s two largest telcos, SK Telecom and KT, and some big operators in the United States and Europe. And in Japan, telcos are ordering some Android phones supporting NFC-like FeliCa technology for the ongoing contactless-wallet rollout there. 

Paltry Lineup at Present
A snapshot of the current availability of NFC phones shows a rather gloomy picture, with a tiny two-gee touch-screen model from Samsung, the S5230, available in only limited quantities; an unappealing Nokia mid-tier feature phone, the 6212, going out of production; and a model due out next month from tier-two handset maker Sagem Wireless targeted at the senior set, the Cosyphone. That’s in addition to a few Chinese feature phones.

But with what appears to be a number of NFC-enabled smartphones headed to market by next year, it looks like the wait by mobile operators and service providers for some compelling NFC phones might be finally coming to an end.

Of course, NFC might never become as ubiquitous as Nokia’s signature 13-note ring-tone once was.

But maybe it’s better that way.

 

HEADLINE NEWS

Case Study: Transit Agency in Portugal Combined NFC with BLE for Mobile Ticketing; Faced Challenges

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – The agency that runs ticketing for 19 public bus, tram and train operators serving Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, says it has had success–and faced several challenges–with the rollout of its Anda mobile-ticketing app.

OMNY Hits New Usage Milestone as Open-Loop Payments Rollout Continues

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or MTA, says it continues to see steady growth of its open-loop fare payments service, OMNY, announcing 50 million taps by customers using NFC wallets and bank cards to ride the massive New York City Subway and the city’s buses.

In-Depth: Contactless Open-Loop Pilot in Spain First Project from Vendor Partnership

Mar 11 2021

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Bilbobus, which operates bus service for the city of Bilbao, in northern Spain’s Basque region, says it launched its recent trial of con

Moscow Metro Plans Rollout of ‘Face Pay’ Technology for Fare Collection

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – The Moscow Metro plans to roll out facial-recognition technology at every station by the end of 2021 to enable customers to pay fares, officials say. The project, while delayed, would be the largest of its kind globally.

Stockholm Transit Agency Launches Open-Loop Fare Payments for Multimodal Rides

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Stockholm Public Transport, or SL, the city-owned company that oversees major public transport in the city, is the latest agency in Europe to launch open-loop fare collection, offering multimodal rides with a tap of a contactless EMV bank card or NFC device.

Case Study: Amsterdam Transit Operator Seeks to Go Nearly 100% Digital for Ticketing to Cut Costs and Enhance Service

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – GVB, Amsterdam’s largest public transit operator, says it seeks to replace an aging closed-loop fare card system and go to open-loop and other digital tokens with the planned rollout of its new account-based ticketing system.

Google Announces Plans to Enable Public Transit Ticketing in Maps App along with Rollout of Parking Fare Payments

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Google has announced plans to launch public transit ticketing for more than 80 cities globally in coming weeks from its trip-planning Maps app and also to enable users to buy virtual closed-loop fare cards–starting with the Clipper card in the San Francisco Bay Area–directly from the app. That’s in addition to enabling payments for parking in more than 400 U.S. cities.

UPDATED: U.S. Federal Government Awards Grants to Help Transit Agencies Roll Out Contactless Payments and Mobile Ticketing

Feb 18 2021

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – U.S. public transit agencies have been keen to remove cash and paper tickets from their buses and trains and to keep more distance between customers and agency staffers because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now they are getting a new boost from the U.S. federal government in the form of grant funds to enable them to enhance contactless and mobile payments systems, among other measures.

German Transit Agency Plans to Complete Open-Loop Rollout on Buses and Trains This Quarter, Expand to Other Mobility Later

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – German transit agency SWB Bus and Bahn plans to fully roll out its contactless EMV fare payments service BONNsmart to its bus and train lines by the end of the first quarter, after launching a pilot last fall, confirmed a spokesman, who added that plans call for eventually expanding the contactless service to payments for parking and such micromobility modes as e-scooters.

Large Private U.S. Bus Company Latest to Adopt Mobile Ticketing in Covid Era

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Academy Bus, a large private commuter and charter bus company serving the U.S. East Coast, has launched its first mobile-ticketing service with the SilverPass app, enabling commuters to purchase digital tickets with credit cards or employer benefit cards.

LA Transit Authority Introduces Virtual TAP Card on Android, Complementing Earlier Launch with Apple

Feb 2 2021

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, has followed through with plans to offer Android NFC phone users a way to pay fares with the agency’s TAP closed-loop fare card.

Penetration Rates for Contactless Payments Saw Strong Growth in 2020, including in U.S., Say Networks

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – The CEOs of both Visa and Mastercard in their respective earnings calls yesterday confirmed that contactless payments continued to grow as a share of all face-to-face card payments, with consumer fears of handling cash building on already strong growth trends for the technology.