Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) added Near Field Communications capabilities to its new BlackBerry Bold models, which will go on sale later this month, but is waiting on carriers to flesh out NFC plans for mobile payments. U.S. carriers that are launching the Bold conspicuously avoided mentioning NFC in their press releases trumpeting the device.
"RIM believes that NFC is an exciting technology that will enable many new capabilities, and we are aligning with our partners in supporting the overall NFC ecosystem by investing in NFC in our products," RIM said in a statement. "The BlackBerry Bold 9900 series are the first to be NFC ready and we are working closely with carrier partners on their roll out plans for NFC."
RIM announced earlier this year it would add NFC to its devices.
Juniper Research recently forecast that NFC-based mobile transactions will reach nearly $50 billion worldwide by 2014. However, there is little actual use of NFC for mobile payments in the U.S. today. Research firm Gartner placed NFC payments at the top of its "hype cycle" released last week.
Nonetheless, wireless carriers and others are moving forward with NFC. In July, financial services providers Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express joined Isis, the mobile commerce joint venture spearheaded by Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile USA. Isis identified Salt Lake City as its first launch market, and said in April it will team with local merchants and business leaders to roll out a pilot program slated to go live in early-to-mid-2012. In June, Isis named Austin, Texas, as its second launch market, stating it will collaborate with the Austin Chamber of Commerce and local merchants to boost consumer adoption of m-commerce services.
Meanwhile, Isis will face competition from rival mobile commerce initiatives including the new Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Wallet, which aligns Google with U.S. network partner Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and financial services firms MasterCard, Citi and First Data to enable subscribers to purchase goods and redeem coupons and loyalty rewards via Android smartphones.
A T-Mobile spokeswoman said that "although we're not enabling NFC capabilities at launch, we are working with RIM on future options related to NFC." AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said that the company's participation Isis was an indication of how important mobile payment technology is to AT&T, and that Isis will provide a common approach for the industry. Sprint spokeswoman Jennifer Walsh declined to comment on the BlackBerry Bold's NFC capabilities specifically, but said "we are actively exploring NFC capabilities with others in the area of mobile commerce." A Verizon spokesman could not provide comment at deadline.
- see this IntoMobile post
Isis adds Visa, MasterCard and AmEx to mobile commerce network
RIM unveils new BlackBerry Bold, Torch models
Gartner: NFC payments reach top of 'hype cycle'
Report: RIM, carriers at odds over mobile payment data
RIM vows NFC payment capabilities on new BlackBerry phones
Article updated Aug. 17 with comment from Sprint.