Nokia C7 will go NFC next year
But we still don't know why...
Nokia's C7 handset can read NFC (Near Field Communication) tags, and operate as an NFC tag itself, with a downloaded update coming next year. This will be followed by software to drive the secure element.
The secure element will be needed to manage proximity payment systems, such as London's Oyster network, but Nokia still isn't saying where that secure element will be (on the SIM, though the Single Wire Protocol, or in the phone). What the company has said is that the C7 has circuits for emulating a payment token as well as for reading tags, and that a software update early next year will activate the functionality.
Nokia had already confirmed that the C7 has "an NFC chip" in it, but refused to be drawn on what that meant. Now Nokia's communications director has told Teknologik Generation that the C7 supports the full range of NFC functionality.
NFC, or (more accurately) the N-Mark standard, requires devices to be both a reader and a tag. The former is so that the device can read tags on billboards and packaging, the latter is so it can operate as a train ticket or proximity credit card, even when its battery is exhausted. Nokia's earlier statements left us guessing what functionality was supported in the C7. Now we know.
Not that any of this functionality will be available to normal users. If Nokia's plan was to make the C7 its first proper NFC-capable handset, then the C6 (which is the same, only smaller) would have NFC too. What's more likely is that the C7 is intended to replace the Nokia 6212 in the various NFC trials that continue to rumble on around the world.
The interview (which is in French) refers to six handsets supporting NFC that Nokia has developed. NFC World counts up Nokia's history and reckons that if one includes the pair of snap-on cases then there's no more coming any time soon, but if one excludes the cases then there could be a couple more NFC handsets in the pipeline.
This is all far from promising, when Apple is exploring the technology and Android developers are already playing with a pair of NFC APIs. At the moment Nokia leads the world in NFC, perhaps because no one else wants it, but even if that is the reason, it would be nice to see the company betting hard on the technology if it really believes that NFC will become important. ®
Can't help thinking that Nokia...
...will do all the leg work with NFC - agree the standards, build the prototypes, perform extensive trials - only for Apple to come along with a "magical" iPhone5 device and steal all the credit by actually making NFC usable after signing up high street retailers and transport companies with prominently displayed "iPhone" branded proximity payment points, and of course building novel support for NFC into their desktop computers and pads.
Nokia: Get your product out there and NFC payment points on the high street or you'll be left behind, again.
Nokia should stop messing about with NFC
and concentrate on making a decent phone again.
Back to basics people.
Somebody has to be the egg
When all other manufacturers are too chicken to include NFC, somebody has to be the egg.
When you can finally do something with NFC...
... then Nokia will push out a software update for the phones in the relevant countries and start marketing the C7 as a NFC capable phone. Until then it makes little sense, especially while they're still hammering out technical the details.
Quite sensible, considering how many marketing blunders Nokia's made in the past.
The Chicken or the egg question
This question of the chicken and egg is always there.
I have a Nokia N92, the first with mobile television. It worked surprisingly well, much better than I would have expected. Much better and completely usable. I still have some films I recorded, like Blade Runner, for instance.
But then suddenly there was nobody who wanted to deliver anything. To day one ISP agains a monthly charge.
I cannot blame Nokia for that.
The NFC feature is a similar adventure. but you need the hardware before you can use any services. Nokia is taking a risk, but is there any choice.