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When NFC Smartphones are not NFC Capable

In a recent post, we discussed how consumers’ increasing access to NFC devices could drive broader adoption of this technology beyond the enterprise. While this certainly remains true, this week has brought a couple of disappointing announcements for those among us who are excited to use NFC.

AT&T will disable NFC on Samsung Galaxy S2

Tech-savvy consumers who are looking forward to getting their hands on one of the NFC phones set to be released in the US may be in for a disappointment. While devices such as Samsung’s Galaxy S2 will ship with embedded NFC chips, it is unclear which—if any—US network operators will permit these smartphones to reach the public with their NFC functionality enabled.

One carrier’s NFC plans are certain: AT&T customers who upgrade to the new Galaxy will not be able to use their new device’s NFC capability, as AT&T has announced the smartphone will ship with the NFC chip disabled.

What does AT&T’s decision to block NFC capability mean in the broader context of US NFC adoption? Certainly, this move has potential to slow the momentum NFC has been building over the past several months, especially if other major carriers follow suit. From a strategic perspective, AT&T’s refusal to enable NFC seems to indicate the company has not yet devised a way to profit from its customers using contactless payments and other NFC applications. Overall, this is a discouraging announcement for those of us who are interested in using NFC sooner rather than later.

Next generation iPhone 4s will not have NFC

In other disappointing NFC news, earlier in the week, Apple dashed the hopes of iPhone-using NFC fans worldwide with its introduction of the iPhone 4s. As you probably already know, the new device features a number of incremental improvements over the previous version, but no NFC capability.

As with AT&T’s decision to disable NFC capability in the Galaxy S2, Apple’s failure to include NFC capability in the new iPhone dampens the prospects for NFC adoption to scale among consumers in the near-term.

While the iPhone is a distant second to Android devices in terms of worldwide smartphone market share, Apple users represent a significant—and generally brand-loyal—segment of this market. Furthermore, Apple’s support would have put NFC in the global media spotlight, generating beneficial public awareness and excitement for what now remains a relatively unknown technology.

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