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Nokia C7 'Astound' in US debut - all ready for touchless payment

OK, keys, wallet, phone - I'm outta here

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The Nokia C7 has got its American launch, exclusive to T-Mobile and branded the "Astound", but it also got functioning NFC software – unlike its European incarnation.

The C7 was launched in Europe last October, with Near Field Communications hardware but without the software needed to make use of it. The Astound is the US version of the C7, but NFC Times noticed that the menus on the Astound do offer control over the NFC functionality, with the potential to let owners interact wirelessly.

NFC is a short-range radio technology that can do lots of useful things, such as pairing up Bluetooth headsets or logging a security guard making the rounds, but it is proximity payments (pay-by-wave) that is considered the killer application for the technology, and one that T-Mobile probably has in mind with the Astound launch.

To enable proximity payments, one also needs a secure element: hardware capable of authenticating itself to a bank, and resistant to physical or logical attack. Google's Nexus S (the only other mainstream NFC handset currently on sale) has an embedded secure element, managed by Google, but can also connect over the Single Wire Protocol (SWP) to a secure element in the SIM (which would be managed by the network operator).

The Astound (C7) has no secure element of its own, and so is entirely reliant on the SIM to provide one over the SWP, and until now it didn't even have the software to make that possible.

The Astound is exclusive to T-Mobile, and T-Mobile is a founding member of the operator-consortium Isis*, which seeks to make the SIM the default store for secure elements, so that all fits together nicely. Isis will be wanting handsets for testing soon, and operators will be much happier working with Nokia than Google, though the trials will probably use both handsets to emphasis that it is an operator-led technology, not a handset one. ®

* AT&T is also a founding member of Isis, so its acquisition of T-Mobile shouldn't be pertinent here.

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