It's finally happening. Well, maybe we should rephrase that. It's finally happening in America. NFC
payments, as well as other contactless options, have been all the rage in places like Japan for years now, with many cellphones having these chips embedded in them, enabling consumers to pay for metro rides and groceries with a swipe of their handset. It's a brilliant idea that would greatly simplify life for those sick and tired of fiddling with credit cards. But for whatever reason, the concept has had a very difficult time taking hold in North America. Finally, it seems that's changing.
The Samsung-built Nexus S is the first major smartphone in this market with a built-in NFC chip, and it looks to be the catalyst for a payment revolution. Mobile World Congress saw a huge amount of contactless payment vendors and partners demonstrating at the show, with Visa's PayWave being a major player. There are plans for a major U.S. rollout later in the year, and if Visa can get these into shops, any NFC phone can take advantage. The news is that this is finally hitting retail. There will soon be a microSD card that has NFC on it, enabling even existing smartphones to play ball. That kind of retrofitting will almost definitely boost adoption.
Furthermore, Apple is rumored to have an NFC chip in their forthcoming iPhone 5, and while some may balk at the idea, there's a good chance that an NFC-enabled iPhone would give the industry as a whole the kickstart it so badly needs. For whatever reason, the iPhone has the attention of the mainstream consumer, and Apple's handset can sway people to pay attention to a given technology. Time will tell if the experts are right, but for now, 2011 won't only be the year of the tablet -- it'll also be the year that people started to ditch standard wallets for digital ones.