Nokia Announces More NFC Symbian Phones; Payment Supported in 2012

Aug 24 2011

Update: Nokia today launched three new NFC-enabled Symbian smartphones, along with yet another update to its Symbian operating system, but the handset maker told NFC Times it will not support secure elements on its Symbian NFC phones until the first half of 2012.

The new smartphones, the Nokia 700, 701 and 600, all support NFC tag reading and peer-to-peer communication. The affordable phones are scheduled to be released on the market globally during the third quarter. 

The announcement of the phones and Symbian “Belle” update follows just a week after Nokia announced the imminent release for over-the-air downloads of its previous Symbian update, Anna, which is the first Symbian version to support NFC. The Anna update potentially turns on the NFC features of millions of previously shipped C7 phones. Belle has the same NFC support as Anna.

Nokia has been at pains to keep its customers interested in its Symbian phones, as they anticipate the first Nokia handsets supporting Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system. The first Windows phones supporting NFC from Nokia are expected in 2012.

Nokia is expected to support NFC in all or most of its future Symbian handsets, which it pledged to continue to introduce for the next 12 months. It’s possible they could later be updated to support SIM-based secure elements and card emulation, NFC Times has learned. But no Symbian NFC phone from Nokia will support payment or other applications on secure elements until next year, a spokeswoman told NFC Times.

“Nokia believes that open NFC has a far greater financial value over the next couple of years, e.g., pairing devices, sharing content and using the device to read tags,” the spokeswoman said. “Nokia will bring secure NFC to the Symbian platform in first half of the 2012.”

Nokia estimated earlier this year that NFC services that do not require applications to be securely stored on SIM cards, embedded chips or other secure elements will account for 68% of the value of the NFC market in 2013. Applications on secure elements would make up the remaining 32%. It did not give a projection for actual revenue.

The new smartphones, the 700, 701 and 600, do not yet support secure elements and neither does the C7. A MeeGo-based smartphone from Nokia, the N9, due out soon, also will not support the secure applications. 

But it’s possible one or more of the new phones and other Symbian devices that Nokia introduces later this year supporting NFC could be updated over the air in the first half of 2012 to support payment or ticketing applications on SIM cards. That’s provided there is a physical single-wire connection built into the phones between the NFC chip and SIM slot, complying with the single-wire protocol standard. This is likely in one or more of the new phones. The phones do not have embedded secure chips. And the C7 won’t be able to be upgraded to support secure payment or ticketing.

It the software in the phones were to be updated to support SIM-based applications, then the entry-level smartphones could extend the reach of NFC to more consumers, for example, being used for transit ticketing in Asian countries, where there is a well-developed infrastructure of contactless transit terminals. Update: Before that, Nokia is promoting NFC with such tag-reading applications as check-ins on social-networking sites, as part of a tie-in with Chinese site Jiepang. End update

The Nokia 600 will retail for €180 (US$260) before operator subsidies, said Nokia. The Nokia 700 will cost about €270 without subsidies. That’s lower than high-end smartphones and the Nokia Symbian phone prices are expected to come down.

Besides the lower-cost Nokia phones, Research in Motion yesterday introduced an entry-level NFC-enabled smartphone in its Curve series that likely supports the single-wire protocol and an embedded chip. Either one could carry payment and transit ticketing applications. And Chinese phone maker Huawei produced an affordable NFC-enabled Android phone introduced by Turkish operator Turkcell in July.

Of course, mobile operators in any market launching payment or ticketing on SIM cards would have to issue specially equipped NFC-enabled SIMs that also support the local transit application and security protocol, such as Mifare, or are certified to carry a particular payment application. End update.

The Finnish phone maker is promoting the Belle update as continuing the work of Anna to “improve and modernize the Symbian experience,” according to a post on Nokia’s official blog today. That includes such tweaks as new widgets, more customization options and new apps, along with the built-in NFC functionality. It will make Belle available to the C7 and other Symbian phones running Symbian Anna.

Anna already supports NFC, but Nokia in its press material today clearly is playing up NFC as a top selling point for the Belle update and the three new lower-end Symbian phones it announced. Nokia also announced a new NFC-enabled Bluetooth headset today, which it calls the Nokia Essence.

“NFC capabilities allow any of the three new smartphones to pair with NFC-enabled mobile accessories, such as speakers or Bluetooth headphones and headsets,” said Nokia in a statement. “(NFC) allows contacts, videos and images to be shared with other NFC-enabled devices and smartphones, as well as pairing with NFC-enabled mobile accessories.”

Nokia is continuing to push its so-called “open NFC” applications, which use NFC’s tag-reading and P2P modes. In its announcement today, Nokia repeated plans to support an NFC tie-in with the popular game Angry Birds with the new handsets, enabling users to unlock additional levels of the game by tapping their NFC phones on those of friends or on Angry Bird toys containing a tag. Angry Birds will come preloaded on all three phones. There will be support for other games, as well, such as Fruit Ninja and Asphalt 5, said Nokia, which said the latter game would come preloaded on the Nokia 701.

But the handset maker’s focus remains on its forthcoming phones supporting Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform. Nokia and Microsoft plan to introduce NFC-enabled Windows phones, but not until next year, as NFC Times has reported. The first Nokia Windows phone will probably be out by the end of the year, but without NFC.

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