Mobile wallet and NFC could be the next patents battleground for Apple and Google

28 Aug 2012

The news that Google Wallet aspires to be a holdall for all your cards, tickets and what not sounds uncomfortably familiar to Apple’s forthcoming Passbook in the new iOS6. Could it be that NFC is the landscape for the next Apple V Google showdown?

The smartphone wars entered a critical phase in the past week with Apple being awarded US$1bn by a California court after a jury decided Samsung infringed on various patents related to the iPhone. As a result Apple is vigorously pursuing a ban of eight Samsung smartphones from sale in the US.

Today mobile news site MobileBurn uncovered a developer video in which Robin Dua, head of product management for Google Wallet, said he wanted to make the NFC servie a holdall for various credentials from cards and tickets to boarding passes, ID cards and gift cards.

The idea is to leave your leather wallet at home and carry your phone to do all transactions from getting a bus to buying a coffee.

But wait, isn’t that exactly what Apple revealed at the WWDC in July when it demonstrated a new Passbook app that allows users to gather all their passes in one place, including boarding passes and sports tickets. The app lets users scan coupons with their iPhones or iPod touch devices for such purposes as getting into a concert or checking into hotels.

Microsoft also has big plans for this area and appears to be progressing with its WalletHub for Windows Phone 8, emphasising enhanced security. At a recent Windows Phone keynote Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore demonstrated the NFC capabilities of forthcoming devices. He also talked about NFC tags in posters for apps, or using NFC to execute a call to a taxi, or using tags on business cards to receive contact information.

But mobile money and the digital wallet that will be the centrepiece of our digital lives will be of paramount importance in terms of who will dominate the smartphone space of the next five years.

In the smartphone wars, while Apple hasn’t yet gone after Google directly over Android – despite the late Steve Jobs promising to go thermonuclear – the various shifts and changes Apple has been making signals a standoff.

For example, the next iPhone device (iPhone 5) won’t come with a native YouTube app, nor will it have Google Maps. It will, however, come with a new native 3D mapping tool that also features a Flyover view and turn-by-turn navigation.

NFC is the one area that Apple has been very quiet about and it makes sense that a device as predominant as the iPhone will play a role in this rapidly unfolding m-commerce area.

If you think the stakes were high when it came to smartphone and apps, the stakes will get even higher when finance is introduced and these devices become the digital wallets of consumers all over the world.

Mobile commerce image via Shutterstock

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