Sunday, September 2, 2012

NFC: It powers (smart)phones

Two days ago I wrote the first about NFC and how to find tags to experiment with. Today it's time to find out more about phones – not just about any phone, but about phones (and especially smartphones) which are NFC enabled. Of course there are other devices like USB enabled readers but it wouldn't make much sense for a Mobile Computing Master student (and mobile device loving developer ;) to write about those, if there are (smart)phones that support NFC.
It won't be possible for me to list all phones that support NFC, but I'm going to go through a short list of interesting operating systems that support NFC – of course only if devices running that OS exist. If you only want a list with all the NFC enabled phones, you can just skip to this link – it's updated regularly and should help you decide which device to get.

Let's start with the company that first introduced NFC phones: Nokia with the Nokia 6131 (running Nokia Series 40). This OS is irrelevant now but I think it's worth mentioning. Back in the days (only about 6 years ago), you had to use the Contactless Communication API (JSR-257) with JavaME. If you're still interested, the SDK download for the Nokia 6131 is still available.
Nokia continued adding NFC to their phones so if you're a fan of discontinued operating systems, you can develop for the Nokia Symbian^3 or MeeGo. It's great that they added NFC technology but unfortunately the whole Nokia ecosystem (except of course the Microsoft influenced Lumias) is kind of outdated.

On to the next OS: RIM's BlackBerry 7. Even though the OS and the devices running BB7 are not that old (released only last year), they are already outdated, now that RIM has announced BlackBerry 10. But still, you can develop NFC enabled BB7 apps with the BlackBerry Java SDK 7.
And if you don't want to develop for a soon discontinued operating system, you can also use the new BlackBerry 10 SDK which fortunately also supports NFC. I'm really happy about this because I think, BB10 has potential and with NFC on board it's even better ;)

What about Windows Phone 7 and 8? There is a version of the Nokia Lumia 610 which supports NFC but the Open NFC libraries for Windows Phone are not publicly available (and why develop for Windows Phone 7 when 8 is coming soon). And for Windows Phone 8 we only know that it will support NFC but the SDK hasn't been released yet.

Another interesting OS would be iOS but due to all the NDA stuff and Apple trying to keep everything secret, we (or at least I) know nothing.

Let's come to the last (interesting) operating system that supports NFC: Android. It's not discontinued and apparently has the highest market share and there are a lot of devices out there that include a NFC chip and more will come. NFC is supported since Android 2.3 and if you want to start developing, just head over to the developer site or wait for my next blog posts.

That was it with the mobile operating systems I think could be interesting to develop for (including some features based on NFC). Next time it will be more technical: I will finally start adding some small examples how to actually develop NFC enabled apps. I hope this articled didn't strike you as "everything but Android (and maybe BB10) is bad"-post but you can see for your self: Android is currently the only widely used OS that supports NFC – the first BB10 devices are still half a year away, WP8 will not be released for another two months (according to some rumors) and nobody really knows what the next iPhone will bring.
This is why for now(!), I will only include Android and BB10 in the upcoming NFC experiments ;)

So stay tuned and until next time.

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