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HTC Droids get working bonk-payment NFC setup in China

Networks, iPhone 5 owners not invited to tapcash party

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

HTC and China Merchants Bank have launched a mobile wallet, allowing owners of HTC Android smartphones to pay for stuff wirelessly by tapping their phone on the till or what have you. The technology is stored in a secure chip in the handset and thus is available without approval, or notification, of the network operator.

The wallet is available on three HTC mobes: the Desire C and two Chinese variants of the One X. All of these are powered by Google's mobile operating system Android. Punters, regardless of their network operator, can take the phone into a bank branch, slap some cash on the counter and get it credited to the QuickPass application so they can pay merchants across China with the bonk of a handset.

This wireless wizardry requires a radio conforming to the N-Mark standard (which we engineers call "NFC" in order to confuse people), and also some secure storage in which to stash the cryptographic keys used to authenticate the user. The location of, and control over, of that secure store has been heavily contested by companies who see long-term value in being the gatekeeper.

Banks have long favoured some sort of removable memory card, beyond the control of both network operator and handset manufacturer. NFC Times, in its extensive coverage, points out that China UnionPay has a QuickPass application on a microSD card, and US banks tried out the same thing in New York in 2010.

But despite that, much smart money is now on wallets dropping into the SIM as evidenced by operator consortia including ISIS in the US, and Project Oscar on this side of the pond, creating a standard SIM wallet working across network operators.

But Google is still persevering with its operator-independent Wallet, and now HTC is following suit. The advantages are obvious: no negotiating with network operators, no rent to pay on secure storage in the operator's SIM, and control over the host of voucher and loyalty schemes which are generally expected to make NFC sustainable.

Announcing the deal HTC was explicit in promising all those applications, once pay-by-bonk has pushed NFC into user's pockets, and with HTC in overall control of the secure element - of course. ®

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