All Smartphones Will Support NFC Phone Payments

All Nokia smartphones will support NFC technology in the future, according to various reports that quote Nokia VP Ilari Nurmi. NFC technology – which allows users to pay for goods using their phones, share content and connect to other NFC enabled devices – will appear on both Symbian and Windows Phone 7 devices. Nokia last week announced three new phones based on the next generation Symbian Belle platform, all of which support NFC.

 

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China Mobile Adds The iPhone In October

China Mobile is reported to have signed an agreement with Apple to start selling the iPhone 4 in China at the end of October, reports Cellular News, citing Chinese language website, ccidcom.com. The two firms have been in talks for some years about selling the iPhone in China, but the operator is hampered by its use of TD-SCDMA, which is not currently supported by Apple. It is not clear if Apple is developing a TD-SCDMA version of the handset or will simply sell its existing model offering only GSM and Wi-Fi functionality. According to recent reports, there are already as many as 6 million “unofficial” iPhones running on China Mobile’s network

 

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eBay Powers Mobile-Payments With Zong Buy

eBay has made a major push into mobile payments, acquiring Silicon Valley-based Zong, a specialist in carrier billing. The online auction giant will pay approximately US$240 million in cash for the firm and expects the deal to close in the third quarter. Zong boasts connections with more than 250 mobile operators worldwide, offering “localised, secure and easy-to-use payments capabilities for digital goods and services” in 21 languages and 45 countries. eBay described Zong as a “complementary technology” to its existing online payments business, PayPal – a market leader with over 100 million active accounts. Zong will “strengthen PayPal’s leadership position in mobile payments and digital goods,” eBay said in a statement.

Zong’s technology allows users to pay for virtual goods on mobile devices – such as game credits – using just their phone number with payments added directly to the operator bill. This space is also a current focus for PayPal. eBay launched ‘PayPal for Digital Goods’ earlier this year and claims that PayPal processed US$3.4 billion in payments for digital goods in 2010. “[eBay is] pushing faster and harder on mobile than any other company in the e-commerce payments landscape,” Colin Gillis, an analyst with BGC Partners, told Bloomberg. “[Zong is] one of the best private mobile plays out there and there aren’t many.”

 
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Microsoft To Buy Nokia?

The Internet is once again awash with speculation that Microsoft is planning an audacious move to acquire its smartphone partner Nokia’s handset business. The source of the latest gossip is an article by Russian blogger Eldar Murtazin, a long-term Nokia watcher who has previously correctly predicted several big moves at the handset giant. Murtazin noted in his latest post that the acquisition could be closed this year, with both companies “very much in a hurry.” Microsoft and Nokia struck a high-profile deal in February for the ailing handset giant to use Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform as its primary smartphone OS. If Microsoft is deciding to go a step further and acquire Nokia’s handset business outright, commentators believe it will need to spend around US$30 billion.

Murtazin’s track record in accurately predicting Nokia-related stories is impressive – much to the annoyance of Nokia, which last year appealed to the Russian authorities to force Murtazin to return its intellectual property. Murtazin correctly anticipated Nokia’s dumping of its Symbian OS; its partnership with Microsoft; and the appointment of ex-Microsoft employee Stephen Elop as its new CEO last September. Nevertheless, the latest rumour still seems far-fetched: many believe Microsoft has little desire to own Nokia now it has the handset agreement in place. Furthermore, the sale of its handset business would leave the remaining Nokia as a tiny firm: owning only its stake in Nokia Siemens Networks, its mapping arm Navteq, and its intellectual property.

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Nokia W7 & W8 To Be New Windows Phones?

Nokia is still keeping mum on when its first Windows Phones will go on sale, with speculation that their debut could slip into 2012. But what will those phones be? Industry blogger Eldar Murtazin claims to know, predicting that Nokia’s first two Windows Phone devices will be the W7 and W8.

Eldar who? The Russian blogger has been something of a thorn in Nokia’s side over the years, with regular leaks of new phones. In July last year, Nokia even involved the Russian authorities in trying to seize back prototype devices that had fallen into his possession.

The point is he’s regularly had an inside track on new Nokia devices, which is why this new rumour has credibility. Murtazin tweeted it yesterday: “In one words — W7, W8 will be the first Nokia WP7 phones 🙂 W7 like HTC Mozart, W8 — N8 variant (chipset TBD)”. Which is actually 21 words and an emoticon, but we’ll let it slide.

Engadget puts some flesh on the bones of this tweet, suggesting the W7 will — as its name implies — be not entirely dissimilar to the just-unveiled Nokia X7 Symbian handset, while the W8 will be an evolution of the existing N8. Its report claims both devices will be built using Qualcomm chipsets to conform to Microsoft’s specs standards.

Engadget also claims that according to Murtazin, Nokia is planning to release 12 Windows Phone devices in 2012 with various specs and form factors, using Microsoft’s Mango update to the Windows Phone OS — shown off this week at its MIX11 conference in Las Vegas.

Earlier this year, a leaked photo of some Nokia Windows Phone prototypes emerged that looked like someone had been Photoshopping WP7 screenshots on to the Nokia C7, but using the X7 and N8 as the basis for the first commercial handsets makes sense. The N8’s bullet-proof hardware teamed with the smooth Windows Phone software would be a strong combination indeed.

We’re hopeful that Nokia’s first two Windows Phones will be affordable, too. In February, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop looked forward to a time when Windows Phones would reach “a very low price point”, and said this had been a key discussion point in Nokia’s negotiations with Microsoft before signing up to use its OS.

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Microsoft’s Windows Phone ’07 To Beat Apple’s iPhone In Market Share

“IDC caused some chuckles to break out across the tech world when they predicted that Microsoft’s Windows phones will beat the iPhone in market share by 2015. Impossible! Absurd! seemed to be the default responses,” Jon Brodkin reports for Network World. “But is it really so far-fetched? Gartner, the other giant tech analyst firm, now agrees with IDC in a new report that says Windows phones will take 19.5% market share by 2015, compared to 17.2% for Apple’s iOS.”

“While it’s tough to predict outcomes in such a volatile market four years in advance, there are plausible scenarios under which Microsoft can topple Apple in market share,” Brodkin reports. “To do so, Microsoft must position Windows Phone 7 as a low-end smartphone, almost like a high-end ‘dumb’ phone, while Apple continues going after the highest, most expensive end of the mobile market. If your phone can check email, surf the Web, and play music and videos it already does most of what a typical iPhone owner uses the device for. And if it’s free, rather than $200 to $300, many people will take it.”

“The other factor working in Microsoft’s favor, of course, is the Nokia deal. Because of its dominant position outside the United States, Nokia still sells more smartphones than Apple,” Brodkin reports. “Today, those phones are Symbian-based, but they will be transitioned to Windows Phone 7 as fast as Microsoft and Nokia can make it happen.”

Brodkin reports, “There have been some reports that Apple will develop a cheaper, smaller version of the iPhone to go after the low end of the market, but that still remains to be seen. 2015 is a long way away in the mobile market, but the combination of Nokia’s existing market share and a Microsoft strategy to target the low end of the smartphone market could well be enough to drive Microsoft sales ahead of the iPhone.”
Jon Brodkin.

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Smartphones To Be Smarter

BARCELONA, Spain — Cell phones are usually used to communicate with people far away. This year, they’ll get the ability to do the opposite: communicate with things that are close enough to touch.

It may not sound immediately useful, but phones will get some surprising capabilities with the addition of chips for so-called Near Field Communications, a wireless technology with a range intentionally limited to just a few inches.
The phones will be able to talk to payment terminals designed for “smart cards,” replacing credit and debit cards. They could be used as mass transit passes. You could tap two phones together to exchange contact information.
Or you could tap a “smart tag” on a poster, product or sticker to get your phone to do something, such as retrieving information from the Internet or placing a call to the product’s customer support line. Yankee Group analyst Nick Holland likens these tags to the links that take us from Web page to Web page, only now they’re in the real world.
Adding NFC is like adding a whole new capability on the level of GPS navigation or a camera, Holland said.
The industry has been talking about including NFC in phones for years, mainly to turn them into “electronic wallets.” Beyond a few trials, nothing much has happened, except in Japan and Hong Kong, where these systems have caught on for mass-transit ticketing.
But at the world’s largest cell-phone trade show, held last week in Barcelona, Spain, it was clear that the log-jam has loosened, in part because NFC chips are now cheaper. Millions of NFC-equipped phones will be in consumer hands in the U.S. and Europe before the end of the year.
Jim Balsillie, the co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd., said at the show that “many if not most” BlackBerrys will have NFC chips this year. Google Inc.’s Nexus S already has one, and the company’s latest Android software for that and other phones has NFC support. Nokia Corp., the world’s largest maker of phones, has committed to putting NFC chips in all its next-generation smart phones.
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Based on job postings at Apple Inc., there’s speculation the new iPhone model due this summer will have an NFC chip. Apple wouldn’t comment.
NFC turns the limitation of short-range communications into an advantage. When an NFC terminal senses an NFC-equipped phone, it knows that’s because the user is holding it right up close and wants to interact in some way — for instance, paying for a can of Coke.
That means a lot of the complexity that comes with establishing wireless links — like logging on to a Wi-Fi hotspot or “pairing” Bluetooth devices with each other — can be dispensed with. Tap and something happens; but your phone will probably still ask you if you really want that can of Coke.
The simplicity of NFC also lets it cut through the complications of existing mobile payment systems, which let you send money through an app or text message. These systems have been more popular in Europe.
It’s possible to upgrade some current phones with NFC chips. Small memory cards that are accepted by some phones can be given NFC capabilities. Both MasterCard and Visa are experimenting with “jackets” for the iPhone that have NFC chips, for instance.
But not all phones are compatible with these solutions, so the most likely way to get NFC into consumer’s hands is with new phones. Research firm Yankee Group estimates that there will be 151 million NFC-enabled phones in 2014, up from 834,000 in 2010.
The wide support from phone manufacturers comes after nearly a decade of much talk but little action. Bill Gajda, head of Visa Inc.’s push into mobile payments, said the NFC idea has faced “a series of chicken-and-egg problems.”
Phone makers didn’t want to include the chips in their phones if the wireless carriers didn’t want them.
Wireless carriers saw no use for the chips if merchants didn’t have terminals that accepted them. Merchants didn’t want to invest in terminals if there would be no phones to use them.
With phone makers and wireless carriers now supporting the idea, the hope is that stores will take the jump too, Gajda said.
Written by
PETER SVENSSON
AP Technology Writer

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