NFC Contactless PaymentThe main use for NFC that is capturing all the headlines is as a wireless payment method. Contactless credit and debit cards have been around for a while but now you can use your phone for this instead, which as mentioned works even when you're out of battery.
At least you would be able to if it was widely available - at the moment the technology is still patchy in terms of support. Orange is currently offering its QuickTap system in conjunction with Barclaycard, with the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Samsung Tocco Quick Tap both compatible with the system. In fact, you can get £50 free to spend using the system if you buy an S3 with Orange at the moment.
Samsung and Visa also ran a trial during the Olympics issuing all the athletes with Samsung Galaxy S3 phones equipped with a wireless payment account to use round the Olympics village, which was fully equipped with wireless payment points. We also received one of these trial devices and can attest to how easy the system is to use, with payments a mere tap away.
Otherwise, though, the whole system is waiting for compatible apps to be released by banks and for the networks to get onboard, though this should be happening ever more rapidly over the coming months.
The other side of the contactless payment equation is whether shops will have compatible terminals, and here it's actually better than you may think with over 150,000 payment points already installed nationwide. The following companies already have contactless payment systems installed in all or some of their stores/locations.
Marks and Spencer
Pret A Manger
M6 toll road
Soon Oyster will also be compatible as will London buses.
In terms of security, you can either set your phone up so that you're required to enter a PIN each time you go to make a payment – somewhat self defeating – or simply have it instantly authenticate. If you choose the latter it you will then need to enter a PIN when you top up your account.
You see, key to the way the system is being setup on most devices at the moment is that you have a separate contactless account which requires topping up. This means you can only ever splurge £50 or so before you'll need to top up again. On most systems the maximum spend is only £10-£20 too. One downside to these limitations is that if your phone runs out of battery you'll have to recharge it before being able add more funds.
So clearly contactless payment is an exciting aspect to NFC but actually it's only part of the equation. There are many other uses too.