Nokia today “announced”:http://www.nokia.com/A4136001?newsid=1096858 the “6131 NFC phone”:http://europe.nokia.com/A4307094, the first integrated “NFC”:http://www.nfc-forum.org/aboutnfc/ handset that will (operators willing) be available to the public. Previously NFC had been confined to ageing handsets like the 5140 and 3220 via add-on covers, both of which did not support the latest “NFC standards”:http://www.nfc-forum.org/specs/ and had limited capabilities. The new handset will be available in select markets in the 1st quarter of 2007.
Nokia’s press release:
bq. “Unlike a simple card or keytag, which only allows for one-way communication, an NFC-enabled mobile phone allows users to realize the benefits of a fully interactive experience. For example, touching an NFC-enabled advertising poster or informational kiosk can automatically link the user to interactive Internet based information, open an audio file, or download new content directly to the handset. Additionally, an extra layer of security is enabled when making contactless payments since the handset can be set to allow payment information only when the user expressly authorizes the transaction via a password, unlike a card or tag, which can be used by whoever has it in their possession.”
bq. “Along with its NFC features, the Nokia 6131 NFC phone includes an extensive set of today’s most wanted wireless features. A built-in digital music player with microSD card support and FM stereo radio allow customers to enjoy their favorite music on the go. A 1.3 megapixel camera, featuring a dedicated camera button and 8x digital zoom makes it easy to capture and share images. Bluetooth wireless technology enables easy connection to a wide selection of Nokia enhancements and PC’s or even the ability to go handsfree in compatible automobiles.”
It’s a simple Series 40 phone, not a high-end smartphone, but these features add up to a respectable and hopefully cheap device. It supports Java MIDP 2.0, Bluetooth and EDGE, all of which should make application development with NFC that much easier.
Now the big question is the rollout of NFC services. NFC technology offers very little without a supporting infrastructure of regionally specific ticketing, payment and custom services. Will we see London Transport selling “Oyster”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oyster_card phones, or “Tesco”:http://www.tesco.com/ selling loyalty phones? Without services/applications like these, the handsets themselves are likely to be hard to sell.