There are now 35m NFC handsets in the world

14 Dec 2011

The year 2011 was a breakthrough year for NFC (near field communications), not only due to the launch of Google Wallet and other new services coming on stream, but the arrival of 35m NFC-compatible handsets, due to grow to 80m in 2012.

According to a new report by IMS Research, the number of NFC-enabled phones shipped in 2011 totalled 35m globally. IMS forecasts that significant market events and the enablement of other cellular handsets will drive that number to nearly 80m by the end of 2012.

“After seven or so years of false dawns and frequent disappointment, 2011 has proved to be something of a breakthrough year,” said Don Tait, senior analyst at IMS Research.

“Most of the leading cellular handset manufacturers have launched NFC-enabled handsets over the last 12 months. They include Samsung, RIM, Nokia and HTC. Apple is the main player yet to release an NFC-enabled handset.”

As well as a stream of launches of NFC-enabled handsets in 2011, there have also been an increasing number of joint ventures and collaborations between different players of the NFC ecosystem.

Key events in the rollout of NFC in 2011

• The launch of Google Wallet in the US.

• The French government funding NFC in Paris, Bordeaux, Caen, Lille, Marseille, Rennes, Strasbourg, Toulouse and Nice. Orange plans to sell 500,000 NFC-enabled cellular handsets in France by the end of 2011.

• Orange UK and Barclaycard’s “Quick Tap” contactless payment solution, which launched in May 2011 in the UK. Retailers that have signed up to this service include McDonald’s, EAT, Boots and Pret-a-Manger.

Prospects for NFC in 2012

Looking forward to 2012, the market for NFC looks even more promising. Sales of NFC-enabled cellular handsets are projected to accelerate during the next 12 months to reach 80m handsets.

Additionally, showcase events such as the Summer Olympic Games in London will help to promote the technology and its benefits.

For instance, NFC will be available at the Olympic Park, with Everything Everywhere, Telefonica UK, Visa Europe and Samsung involved in the project.

The launch of the ISIS initiative in Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City, Utah, in the first half of 2012 will also boost the profile of NFC, IMS predicts.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years