BlackBerry is far from the first NFC phone, so why does RIM's UK MD Stephen Bates think that when the BlackBerry Bold 9900 comes along it will kickstart mobile payments in the UK ahead of the rest of the world?
It's not because it will have NFC in it - Orange has said half the phones it sells this year will have NFC and Bates freely admits that "NFC is not new. Really, we don't see this as we're bringing more technology to market."
What BlackBerry has is battery life that keeps going so you can still pay for things late in the evening, security that users, banks, mobile operators and companies who want to sell you something all trust - and good relationships with a lot of them already.
"In the consumer market we might think people don't tend to see security as a feature or a need they have at the moment, but we think once you start paying for coffee and newspapers people will just assume that security will be there," Bates told TechRadar.
Plus it has the hugely successful BlackBerry Messenger service; an infrastructure for sending messages in real time that's far more reliable than text messages (let alone Twitter). "BBM is a real-time handshaking technology that confirms when I've sent something to you and when you've received it; in layman's terms that's called a receipt…"
One of the reasons combined Oyster and credit cards haven't taken off - not everyone wants to switch to Barclaycard. BlackBerry can avoid the problems of whether your mobile operator works with your particular credit card, because you'll be able to charge things to your phone bill - for yourself or as gifts.
"If my kids want a prepay top-up they can ask me to pay it and I can gift it to them and get it charged to my carrier bill. If I want to buy an app, I can charge it to my carrier bill. Now - in a mobile commerce world - if I want to buy myself a coffee and a newspaper and a sandwich I can do that with contactless payment."
More than payments
Paying for things is only part of what NFC is going to be good for; you can use NFC for reading from the phone as well as for sending to it which means it could be the fob that gets you through the door at work as well as the Oystercard you use to take the train home.
It could also be what gets you into the concert or football game you bought a ticket for online, linking your online and real-world social life.
"Say I like a certain band," suggests Bates. "I'm connected to their web page, I'm connected to their fan page, I'm on Twitter, I'm on Facebook… I get pushed an update for concerts, I buy my ticket and it pushes me a date in my diary. I use that to get in because I've got a contactless ticket and I get a special offer for a 10% discount on a T-shirt because I'm in the fan club. I walk in and there may be a special on at McDonalds that gets pushed to you. You have this ability to sign up to this and be connected and be interacted with through your social network, through the way you live your life."
Expect mobile payments to start small with a limit on the value of transactions - coffee and newspapers that won't give you a shock when you see them on your bill at the end of the month.
"It's about people being comfortable with things," Bates told us, comparing it to the way people have moved from using social networks on the PC to expecting to be able to tweet and message on their phone all day.
He expects that to happen faster in the UK than many other countries; "We think the UK is one of the markets where the population is more attuned to doing things like contactless payments; they're less scared than other markets around the world."
There are two events coming up that he thinks will speed up these services. "We think the 2012 Olympics is a catalyst for contactless payments - and the 2015 Rugby World Cup is ticketless games. That means we've got probably three years to get ticketless working."
Liked this? Then check out Hands on: BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900 review
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