Microsoft confirms untapped Windows Phone NFC support

Windows Phone 7 already supports NFC technology, Microsoft has confirmed, but it remains the decision of handset manufacturers whether to activate the short-range wireless or, indeed, if there's a use-case for it. "As far as I'm aware, NFC is supported by [Windows Phone], but needs to be enabled by the OEM" Will Coleman developer evangelist and product manager at Microsoft UK, told TechRadar. "So, if any OEM wants to enable it, that can be done by all means." So far, no Windows Phone device offers NFC support.

That's likely to change, as broader users for NFC are rolled out, however. "It's about just about timing," Coleman concluded, "in the not too distant future there are some exciting things that will be coming through with NFC from Microsoft."

NFC, or near-field communications, is a short-range wireless technology that enables smartphones, mobile devices, credit cards and other portable gadgets to communicate between each other – or with another piece of hardware, such as a payment terminal – when tapped together or at a distance of just a few centimeters. Two-way data transfers are possible, but an NFC-equipped phone can also read an unpowered "NFC tag" and collect data from it, for instance a promotional link or shortcut to an app store app.

Google has implemented NFC support in Ice Cream Sandwich for Android Beam, a system where NFC-enabled smartphones can exchange links, contact details or other information when touched back-to-back. However, the most common public use of NFC is probably wireless payments, using a smartphone to replace a credit card or cash. Several trials, including the Android-based Google Wallet, are underway of such systems, which require retailers to be outfitted with payment hardware capable of communicating with NFC phones.

Several of Microsoft's Windows Phone licensees have already experimented with NFC tech. Samsung devices offer NFC payments in Korea, Japan and elsewhere, while Nokia has a long track-record of attempting to use the technology.

"NFC isn't an if, it's a when, it will happen" Nokia's Keith Varty, head of apps and partnerships told the site. "Obviously there's no NFC on our launch devices, so it's difficult to comment too much on that, but the main divisions between secure and non-secure [NFC] mean there's bags of opportunity for the technology [on our phones] especially with so many operators launching services."