Using NFC on a High-End Smartphone

Providers Should Consider the Whole Experience When Launching Services.

When I was at Mobile World Congress last month, I used the Sony Xperia T issued by the GSM Association to participate in the NFC Experience programme. Similar to the trial at the NFC and Mobile Money Summit 2012 in Milan, the programme promoted a variety of uses for NFC technology such as smart posters and tags located around the venue and in Barcelona as well as an NFC entry badge and a mobile wallet provided by Telefonica.

Compared with previous NFC-enabled handsets I’ve used, such as the Samsung Tocco Lite with Orange Quick Tap or the Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 on Telecom Italia, this was my first chance to use NFC technology on a high-end device. I was curious to see how certain functions might differ and whether a high-end smartphone necessarily offered a better experience.

To be honest, I didn’t notice a huge difference. In fact, for basic uses of NFC, the experience was almost the same. For example, tapping on a smart poster or tag to retrieve a Web page or telephone number was as straightforward on a high-end device as on a cheaper phone.

The NFC entry badge further demonstrated just how widely NFC could be deployed across low to high-end smartphones. Attendees could download a free application to any NFC-enabled Android, BlackBerry or Windows Phone device, and use this to tap in at the entrance rather than showing a physical badge. While there were some minor complaints about the application having to be opened in order to make this tap, the function performed well on all three platforms.

mob_walletThe only noticeable advantage I experienced with the Xperia T was the use of Telefonica’s mobile wallet. Although the application was very basic and lacked some common features such as showing the credit remaining or transaction history, the mobile wallet interface was very smooth and easy to use. This is important, particularly during these early stages of NFC mobile payments.

Encouraging customers to use NFC mobile payments will depend largely on how companies offer these additional features as part of the wider payment experience. For this reason I think high-end smartphones are a better fit for mobile payments. NFC should be viewed simply as an enabler of an action — in this case the final transaction at the point of sale.

Of course, this isn’t to say that NFC mobile payments should be restricted to high-end smartphones. Providing this service on lower-end devices will be essential when companies want to target the mass market. But in the short-term I think we should focus predominantly on high-end devices to ensure the very best experience and encourage potential customers.

This is something we saw Orange attempt last summer when it shifted its promotion of Orange Quick Tap from the Samsung Tocco Lite to the Samsung Galaxy S III.

NFC is a technology that can be adopted for all types of phones, and handset manufacturers are already warming to this theme. But mobile payments are a good example of how companies need to consider which smartphone really offers the best experience of a particular service.