January 13, 2013

On Apple And NFC

As fellow redOrbiter Lee Rannals and I scoured the CES exhibition floor, one technology continued to pop out from nearly every corner: NFC. I’m no oaf— I know what NFC can do. I know it’s a fantastic technology, one that I (as an iPhone user) would love to take advantage of. Yet, I also know it’s been proven to be quite insecure and isn’t yet stable enough to become a large player in the mobile space.

As it stands, NFC is a technology for bleeding edge, early adopting geeks.

I feel as if I understand why Apple has yet to implement this feature in their mobile devices, and I had the great privilege of explaining this to my co-worker Mr. Rannals on more than one occasion.

It all came to a head later in the week when we saw a booth stocked with NFC tags. Just like any other NFC tag you might find, the company was billing these as the ultimate way to get your phone to behave a certain way under certain conditions.

Step into the car, tap your phone, and suddenly the GPS app pops open, the ringer is turned all the way up, and your favorite drive time playlist begins.

Tap the tag next to your nightstand at bedtime and the ringer is silenced, the alarm is set and your white noise app begins to play.

“I’m so leaving iPhone as soon as I can,” explained the lady at the booth.

“I had no idea phones could do this sort of thing.”

At this point, Lee began to express his frustrations with Apple, claiming that they’re falling so far behind and lagging in this area.

Though you may not believe it. I don’t relish playing the role of the Apple apologist. Yet, I know— rather, I believe— that Apple will one day include NFC if and only if the technology improves.

The company has received some criticism from the geeky set, the “pro” users, for catering to the average user. There was not better proof of this than Siri’s somewhat odd and random ability to tell us if our favorite sports team came out ahead in their latest match.

No matter how cool a technology it is, NFC is still for the geeky set. There will be some who fall somewhere in the middle of the two camps who would appreciate the functionality, but for the most part, this is a feature for the power user.

And at this point I don’t believe Apple feels it’s worth it to move their chips onto such shaky ground so some power users can buy their coffee in another way other than how Apple already allows.

I admit, after spending some time combing through the vast expanse of gadgets at CES, I found myself wishing my iPhone could do some of the things other phones could do.

And if I wanted to do these things badly enough, I’d make the great leap to Android or Windows Phone.

Then there’s that tricky issue of balance.

I could move to Android, but then I’d spend more time configuring my device and keeping tabs on all the latest security issues. I’d get frustrated when I try to touch an item and it misses, or swipe through a webpage and it stutters. (Yes, Project Butter has helped, but I still noticed lag in the Android handsets I played with this week)

The iPhone, like any other electronic device, is not a perfect phone.

Yet, when looked at on the whole, there is none better.

Apple could most certainly adopt NFC tomorrow, and the mobile phone paradigm would be shifted by it, but Apple is looking at the balance.

Is it really worth it for them to adopt this geeky technology, which may or may not be around in another 5 years, just to keep in lockstep with Android?

Or is it better to continue to offer the best all around package and wait for a better implementation of NFC, or something entirely different?

There’s nothing wrong with waiting, and if all that’s being promised is a cool way to turn my ringer off and open a driving app, then I think I can keep waiting.

Image Credit: jeff Metzger / Shutterstock

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Email