HTC to Introduce 4G NFC Phone; U.S. Launch Planned

Handset maker HTC is introducing its first NFC-enabled phone in the West, with U.S. mobile carrier T-Mobile USA announcing that it will sell the 4G Android handset along with an NFC version of Samsung’s popular Galaxy S II starting Oct. 10.

T-Mobile, the fourth largest mobile operator in the United States, said the high-end HTC phone, the Amaze, will support NFC for “wireless searching, information sharing and, in the future, mobile payments.”

The carrier also confirmed that it will sell the NFC version of the Galaxy S II. Samsung this week announced it had sold 10 million units of the flagship Android phone since introducing the follow-up to its popular Galaxy S, but except for shipments on its home soid of South Korea, none of the Galaxy S II phones to date carry an NFC chip.

An even larger U.S. carrier, AT&T, is also reported to be planning to introduce the NFC version of the Galaxy S II next month. The Galaxy S II will also come with NFC next month in Europe, where France’s largest operator, France Telecom-Orange announced it will sell the handset. Sister operator Orange UK is also expected to introduce the NFC version in coming weeks.

For Taiwan-based HTC, which ranked as the seventh larger manufacturer of phones worldwide in terms of unit shipments in the second quarter, according to U.S.-based Gartner research, it’s the first NFC phone outside of a special Android model it produced for China payment card network China UnionPay, called the HTC Stunning. That phone, which was set to be introduced last month, has a special connection to the microSD card slot, which hooks into the phone’s NFC antenna. The flash-memory cards store UnionPay’s contactless payment application, which users could tap at a growing number of point-of-sale terminals UnionPay is rolling out supporting the technology.

The HTC Amaze supports the 2.3.4 version of Google’s Android operating system, which means it likely packs an NFC chip from NXP Semiconductors. Like the NFC version of the Galaxy S II, it also is expected to support the single-wire protocol, enabling T-Mobile to put applications on SIM cards.

The Galaxy S II does not support an embedded chip, an executive with Samsung Electronics said recently. That would explain why U.S. carrier Sprint is stocking the non-NFC version of the phone. Sprint is rolling out the Google Wallet, which is anchored to an embedded secure chip inside the carrier's Nexus S 4G. 

If the HTC Amaze also does not also support an embedded chip then it probably could not be used for the Google Wallet in the United States.

T-Mobile USA, which is part of the Isis consortium with AT&T and Verizon Wireless, is not expected to introduce NFC payment from either the HTC Amaze or Galaxy S II until planned launches of the Isis wallet in Salt Lake City, Utah and Austin, Texas. These launches are scheduled for the first half of 2012. 

But by announcing the NFC features of the HTC Amaze and Galaxy S II yesterday, T-Mobile appears likely to be planning to turn on other NFC features after the phones are launched, to support tag-reading and perhaps peer-to-peer applications.

Besides HTC and Samsung, other NFC-enabled Android phones are expected from LG Electronics, ZTE, Sony Ericsson and Motorola. Chinese handset maker Huawei is already shipping an Android model in Turkey for mobile operator Turkcell.



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