by Simon Rockman
Last June Nokias head of Smartphones, Anssi Vanjoki promised Mobyforum that all future Nokia smartphones would have NFC. Last month Nokia announced three new smartphones, the C7, E7 and C6. There was no mention of NFC. When I questioned a member of Nokia staff I was told that it would be all new smartphones from 2011.
The C7 went on sale this week and people have started looking inside them. It seems that the phones contain NFC hardware. Nokia has admitted that the phones will be upgradeable to NFC, and that this will be a software update, possibly over the air.
This is a cunning move by Nokia. There has long been a stand-off between the handset manufacturers and the operators. The operators say they can’t roll out NFC because there are no handsets at least no nice ones and the handset manufacturers say they’d make the phones if someone put in a big enough order.
The problem is exacerbated for the handset manufacturers as there is no clarity as to what to make. The secure element could be in the handset, the SIM or a microSD card and different operators have different strategies.
The C7 will support NFC. The current lack of support is being billed as the software not being ready in time and that it will follow later. This is a common mantra with phones. Apple launched the iPhone without MMS and only provided this core feature as a later upgrade.
Because NFC needs an ecosystem to handle the tickets, payments or whatever it’s not clear what the handset needs to support. By leaving this to a later upgrade Nokia adds the flexibility.
There are applications which work well without the need for a secure element. At Mobile World Congress last year some people were issued with NFC phones. These could read delegates badges taking their contact details and email addresses which is so much easier than typing in details from a business card.
Nokia has confirmed that the other phones launched at the event do not contain NFC hardware.