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Big demand for pay by phone tech, claims Nokia

The sole manufacturer of NFC handsets

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Nokia is championing the success of its UK NFC trial, claiming that almost 80 per cent of users want contactless payment systems on their mobile phone - a happy coincidence for Nokia, since no one else is making NFC handsets as yet.

The trial - the largest in Europe - saw 500 punters equipped with NFC-capable handsets loaded with applications for Transport for London's Oyster and Barclays payWave system, along with some credit to play with between November '07 and May '08.

The Oyster application enabled trial participants to travel on tubes, buses and trains, by waving the phone near the reader, while payWave was used for small-scale purchases (under a tenner) in a range of shops, including Threshers off-licences.

Nokia reckons the trial was a huge success, with 89 per cent of users liking the Oyster integration, while two-thirds were interested in hanging on to their payWave functionality. Apparently 22 per cent of triallists increased their use of public transport too, but that could be thanks to the £60 credit they were all given at the start of the trial - or the £200 that 225 of them received.

The entire phone industry along with Nokia itself is constantly searching for more technology to put into handsets, and NFC fits the bill well. The applications don't draw on the phone battery in normal use, and the phone interface is just used to interrogate the apps to see the remaining credit and suchlike - so the apps continue to work if the phone is switched off, and the integration is quite simple.

Nokia also maintains control of application distribution, excepting a few special handsets that used the SIM to host apps as a sop to O2 - all of which suits the Finns well.

Nokia isn't commenting on how many of the trialists used their payWave functionality, which is the more interesting figure - replacing an Oyster card with a phone handset is a pretty obvious evolution, but replacing cash with such a system is more of a leap of faith. ®

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