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High End Smartphones & Contactless Payments

Read through the flurry of comments on the San Francisco review and you'll notice a clear trend: if a smartphone this fully featured can cost under £100 then why would you pay 3x the price for something little better? It's a fair point, but one that ignores the fact iPhone sales still rose 89.2 per cent… and Apple's Q1 2011 figures weren't half bad either.

What premium smartphones represent is the expensive, cutting edge technology which will filter down to cheaper handsets over the next year. 2011 will see dual core processors, dual core graphics chips, displays of 4in and above becoming standard on these premium beasties and their horsepower will fuel ever more powerful and inventive apps. We should be grateful for this trickle down, it is what has all but killed the feature phone. Furthermore 2011 will see the widespread introduction of what will begin the second stage of the smartphone new world order: NFC.

Late last year Google's Nexus S became the first mass market smartphone to integrate 'Near Field Communication' it will become an integral part of future Android builds. The same is true for iOS with NFC expected in the new iPhone and iPad. For those not in the know NFC is a short-range (up to 10cm), high frequency wireless tech for exchanging data. It can be used for multimedia, but its primary function is for contactless payments similar to the Oyster card system seen on the London Underground and it has the potential to turn your handset into a giant credit card. This may sound scary, particularly if your phone were stolen, but if successful it will bind the smartphone even tighter into our lives and make so-called dumbphones increasingly redundant.

Critically NFC has major industry support. Leading the way is Visa which can't even wait for NFC in the new iPhone and this week announced it is launching a dongle to enable contactless payments on the iPhone. The 'Wireless Dynamics iCarte' accessory (pictured below) will be available through banks and the roll-out of compatible pay points is promised to be quick.
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"It’s clear from trials across Europe that mobile contactless payment is a strong and compelling customer proposition," said Visa Europe's head of Innovation Sandra Alzetta. "Visa recognises that consumers who use smart phones like iPhone are more likely to be early adopters of advanced payment technology. Given that the availability of a wide range of mobile devices supporting contactless services remains a key hurdle for take-up, we are overcoming this by bringing the capability to the iPhones already in their pockets."

Visa qualified "strong and compelling" as a whopping 87 per cent of iPhone users who said they'd be willing to use an accessory for mobile contactless payments. It is hard to believe Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 smartphone owners would be far behind.

Combine NFC with increasingly impressive games like Infinity Blade, 3D, ever cheaper tariffs and rock bottom budget smartphone pricing and it is easy to see why smartphones are rapidly changing everything…

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