Apps for phones featuring NFC could, for example, encourage customers to tap their phone onto a poster in a store to receive a discount or receive more information about a product. They could also be used to keep track of loyalty points, or to offer customers discounts based on their shopping history. Mobile carriers hope to earn money by connecting retailers with such services.
Many of those apps are expected to spring up, though, and there are already signs they will put consumers in a confusing position. Two companies, Blaze Mobile and Bling, provide stickers with contactless chips inside and software for phones that can be used to make payments. Both allow users to share their contactless payment activity on Facebook and offer similar loyalty schemes and discounts. But Bling’s readers can’t be used with Blaze stickers, and vice versa.
Three of the largest U.S. cell-phone carriers—AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon—recently teamed up to launch their own contactless “commerce network” that will offer consumers yet another choice. Apple is widely believed to be preparing to add NFC to the next version of the iPhone, using its iTunes system to handle payments and creating another route to a contactless experience for consumers to choose from.