Friday, September 21, 2012

No success for NFC payments without Apple

When Apple recently launched its iPhone5 without built-in NFC capabilities, it was in effect pushing NFC payments at least another year into the future.

As I have said in the past, I don't think NFC payments will become a success mainly because I think the problem can be solved in a better way through an app that would require no hardware.

Even if you do not agree with my analysis of NFC vs App, the fact that the iPhone5 launched without NFC is a huge setback, especially for the payment industry. NFC may still become a success story as a technology and people may come up with lots of neat solutions using NFC, but when it comes to the payment part of NFC, the whole industry is basically waiting for Apple to come and save them.

There are several reasons for this but the big one is that iOS users are much more likely to use their devices to pay for anything at all, apps, music, movies, books, whatever, than say users of Android devices are.

This may be due to the Apple requirement that you couple a credit card to your AppleID, that the iOS users feel more comfortable trusting Apple with this information and the purchase, or just that the people who buy iPhones are more prone to buying stuff in general. Who knows? It is probably a combination of all three and maybe some other factors.

The combined effect is that there is no point in launching a NFC payment system unless Apple supports it. And as Matt Drance writes, Apple is unlikely to support it because it hasn't proved that it solves an actual problem that Apple can come in and refine and solve in an even better way.

Because payment systems using NFC is about large-scale hardware roll-outs that cost a lot of money and where technology tend to age very quickly because of new developments, banks and other players in the payment space are unlikely to take the risk without solid support.

Which makes this another chicken and egg problem. Apps to the rescue!

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