Do I really have an NFC phone?

 

 

For many years, I used early NFC-enabled phones at trade shows and to do demos showing how cool NFC was going to be, but I didn’t use any of those phones as my personal phone. Once I left the NFC Forum, I didn’t have access to an NFC phone any more, but it didn’t seem to matter since there really wasn’t anywhere to use it. And I loved my iPhone.

A few months ago, when I started working with the NFC Bootcamp, I decided it was time to get an NFC phone. Since Apple was unwilling to make my life easier and offer an NFC-enabled iPhone (yet, we will see if it is in the iPhone 6), I finally went out and bought a Samsung Galaxy S4 a few weeks ago. It’s a lovely phone with far more features than I really want or need, but I primarily bought it so I could use NFC wherever I could find it, or at least so I could demo NFC at the NFC Showcase in the NFC Bootcamp.

Last week, I attended the GSMA NFC & Mobile Money Summit in NYC. I got my badge and was happy to see that it had an NFC chip in it, thanks to GSMA’s arrangement with ITN/bCard (a company that moved into NFC very early because they could see how well it would work for trade shows). There was also an area labeled “The NFC Experience”. A perfect opportunity to use my new NFC-enabled phone – or so I thought.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my “NFC-enabled phone” actually wasn’t NFC-enabled at all. Samsung had embedded an NFC chip and I had turned on the NFC setting (which unfortunately is off when the phone is sold). However, the AT&T SIM card in my phone was NOT NFC-enabled. Are you kidding me?

But wait… AT&T representatives were on hand to replace our SIM cards with NFC-enabled cards. I chatted with the AT&T guys as they replaced my SIM card. But after 20 minutes (yes, it really took 20 minutes), they realized that they couldn’t replace my SIM card because I am grandfathered into some unlimited data plan that AT&T no longer offers. Again, are you kidding me? They told me to go to an AT&T store to get a new SIM card that would make my new NFC-enabled phone actually able to work with NFC. So the NFC Experience wasn’t actually an NFC experience for me, and I still had to collect business cards the old-fashioned way.

I haven’t managed to get to an AT&T store yet. So here I am with my NFC-enabled phone and no way to use it with NFC.

It’s so disappointing. If the operators don’t support NFC, how will it ever be adopted? Does AT&T actually support NFC, or do they just want to support NFC for Isis? And why isn’t Samsung turning on NFC by default? Are we actually making progress toward NFC adoption in the US, or is it all still just talk?


About the Author:

Paula Berger has been working in NFC since 2005 in a variety of roles. She is currently involved in expanding the NFC Bootcamp, the only globally standardized NFC training program. She was VP Marketing and Communication at Sequent, an NFC Trusted Service Manager (TSM). She was Executive Director of the NFC Forum for six years, from the association’s launch through the rollout of the certification program. Paula has been a writer for NFC World publications and she is on the Planning Committee for the NFC Circle Boston, a program of the MIT Enterprise Forum that supports the development, adoption and commercial success of NFC. Paula has extensive experience in communication of all sorts and in building and running training programs.

Paula Berger

Paula Berger has been working in NFC since 2005 in a variety of roles. She is currently involved in expanding the NFC Bootcamp, the only globally standardized NFC training program. She was VP Marketing and Communication at Sequent, an NFC Trusted Service Manager (TSM). She was Executive Director of the NFC Forum for six years, from the association’s launch through the rollout of the certification program. Paula has been a writer for NFC World publications and she is on the Planning Committee for the NFC Circle Boston, a program of the MIT Enterprise Forum that supports the development, adoption and commercial success of NFC. Paula has extensive experience in communication of all sorts and in building and running training programs.

2 Comments:

  1. That is very interesting as I have a Galaxy3, not a S4 and have AT&T as my provider but did not have to change out a SIM card as the NFC chip is inside the battery. I also ak on a very old grand fathered program of unlimited data. I have been with AT&T since 1996. I did have to enable the NFC on the phone, under Settings/More Settings but once on, I have left it on and never an issue of using it. I have heard from many that Sameungs best integration of NFC in a phone has been S3.

  2. Yes, you do really have an NFC phone, and actually the majority of smartphones built without an Apple Logo have NFC built in as well.

    The reason you required an “NFC Enabled SIM” is because the interaction or application you were using needs access to a “Secure Element” which is stored on the SIM and not in phone memory. Think of it like a secure key stored on the SIM Card. This “key” can be leveraged for features and interactions that require more security like mobile payments.

    For everything else however, NFC on your phone doesn’t require a special SIM. Case in point: just the other day on my BlackBerry Z10, I was able to initiate a transfer of a number of pictures and files just by tapping my phone against the recipients phone. It was fast, easy to use, and worked flawlessly. Another example: I was able to add a colleague to my BBM contact list via NFC tap, quick and easy and no need to scan a QR code.

    The light at the end of the tunnel is that innovative developers are finding ways to provide secure interactions without the need for talking with the “secure key”. Case in point: Take a look at the new Tim Hortons app “TimmyMe” on BlackBerry 10. With this application you can now pay for Tim Hortons coffee all via NFC. It works brilliantly, and can all be done without the need for a special SIM card from the carriers.

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