Inside Contactless and NXP, the leading suppliers of NFC mobile phone chips, say the first commercial Android NFC phones will arrive later this year — with many more to follow in the first half of 2011.
NFC mobile phone chip suppliers Inside Contactless and NXP have both told NFC World this week that the first commercial NFC-enabled Android phones will arrive on the market later this year and that a wide range of NFC phones will be available from early 2011.
"First phones will be available this year and some more first half of 2011," Henri Ardevol, general manager of secure transactions at NXP Semiconductors, has told NFC World.
Loic Hamon, vice president of products and marketing for Inside Contactless' NFC business line, agrees. "We are very much in the real designing phase," he told NFC World, "working to win business from handset manufacturers for commercial handsets." While there is still nine to twelve months of development work to be undertaken by manufacturers before handsets will be ready to go on sale, he added, the first commercial NFC handsets will be available by the end of 2010 and there will be a "vast portfolio of phones next year for sure."
Both companies have announced moves to further support the development of open source Android NFC devices this week. Inside Contactless is making it easier for developers to begin work on creating NFC software for Android devices by placing its Open NFC protocol stack software on the Sourceforge.net website for anyone to download free of charge. And NXP, in conjunction with Trusted Logic, has released its own open source Android NFC API under an Apache license.
Both companies also claim that theirs is the superior solution, however. And both have announced plans to put their technology forward to the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), the group of 65 companies that developed Android, for adoption as the reference implementation — the de facto standard — for NFC in Android devices. This has raised concerns that competition between the two companies could delay the debut of NFC-enabled Android phones rather than hasten their arrival.
That is not likely to happen, though, Ardevol told NFC World. "We do not think that we will go head to head," he explained. "OEMs providing Android phones want standard solutions, not proprietary ones. Not having a clear sign on the Android reference implementation will increase the risk of delay at OEMs... We will welcome Inside Contactless to the next steps as we think it is valuable to get more feedback and go with only one proposal to OHA."
Which solution will win the day? Inside Contactless' solution covers Linux, Windows Mobile and MeeGo as well as Android and, says Hamon, its solution is the most open — it has open-sourced all the code for its NFC protocol stack while NXP and Trusted Logic have only made available an API rather than the full source. However, "our solution is available now and everybody can get access to it without waiting further," says NXP's Ardevol.
Inside Contactless says it will release an Android NFC chip simulator and board to developers by the end of the third quarter of 2010.