The new iPhone – No NFC… no comment!

Probably one of the most surprising things about the new iPhone5S isn’t its novel fingerprint security device (though only available on the £700 model) but what it lacks.

The iPhone, once the leader in the market place is now a follower of the smarter Samsung Galaxy S4, and is starting to be defined by what it doesn’t do.


The most significant feature lacking, and some would say a suicide move, is NFC (Near Field Communications). They are now the only manufacturer without NFC which means Apple owners will soon find themselves missing out on a whole range of NFC based benefits.

Over 90% of non Apple smartphones are NFC enable (only budget models don’t have it). This is to get ready for the move to using your phone for payment and ticketing.  All the major banks and transport systems using touch cards have adopted NFC, so any idea that Apple will rewrite their rules is unlikely.

We are already using Oyster cards and contactless payment cards (both use NFC technology) and it’s heavily predicted that 2014 will be the year of conversion when the mobile will literally be your wallet, ticket and even your security card that gets you into the office (and maybe your car).

There is no question that this is where things area going as consumers get more use to using their mobiles in new and more sophisticated ways, and as they become more centric to all of our lives. And you don’t need a degree in consumer psychology to understand why, it’s just more convenient.

It’s estimated that by 2018 there will be 4bn smartphones with 50% of the world’s population owning one, currently it’s around 500m, UK has 30m. Already over a million NFC enable handsets are produced every week!

Of course, even though iPhones may be big here in the UK and the US, globally they aren’t with just 7.5% of the market, Samsung (based in South Korea) have 22% and Nokia 19% (Finland).

Samsung are now the world’s biggest producer of mobiles, TVs and LCD panels and is one of the largest producers of tablets and phablets. Their might means they can now dictate the terms of the market and they are automatically installing NFC in everything.

Android dominates as an operating system with around 70% of users while Apple has 21% and declining. As markets like China are growing it’s home grown brands like Meizu (one of 11 Chinese brands) that Apple has to face. India has 14 brands and Japan 8.

So why should we marketers be bothered?

Well there’s no doubt that the mobile is coming the first screen, already most social media is done on mobiles with some teenagers checking their phones up to 150 times a day.

More and more we are using them for search, downloads and purchasing – 40% of smartphones users have purchased via mobile, globally mobile payments are estimated to be around $245m. So no surprise that every marketer wants to be in that space, even it’s crowded, restricted and very small – for a banner ad on a mobile app to compete with a poster the phone would have to be almost 50 meters tall, half the height of Big Ben!

Yet ironically, it’s reported that only 25% of brands actually have a mobile strategy.

This has created two approaches, on-mobile (like online) and off-mobile. Most brands will adopt a mix of the two but what is the area of interest and greater opportunity is off-mobile, because it can tap into a far wider range of engaging media and mediums and target people in real life places and situations like shopping centres, bars, venues, etc.

More importantly, off-mobile is more emotionally engaging and drives people in a more positive way to the mobile space, and a brand’s websites as it creates an opt in approach, pull not push. Plus it means you can also build your brand, which is hard to do on-mobile.

Until recently off-mobile campaigns had to rely on URLs or QR codes to get a consume on to a mobile website but NFC is a game changer because it allows a smartphone user to activate a URL at the touch of a NFC tag and the technology can be install into almost anything. The key is that it provides convenience, no fiddly apps or typing in URLs.

Of course there’s a lot more to it than just programming a few tags and hoping for the best, Proximity Mobile Marketing, as it’s known is as sophisticated as any other form of marketing discipline. And like any marketing, just because you stick a message in front of a consumer, no matter how relevant, doesn’t mean they’ll respond or even buy. The art of salesmanship is still needed, no matter how much data you have.

Out of Home specialist, Clear Channel, have activated over 10,000 Adshel poster units with NFC and a recent test campaign resulted in over 4000 people using their mobiles to enter a quiz, proving how effective Proximity Mobile Marketing is. For brands it means ads become the start of an active mobile journey.

Guinness have recently installed NFC into their new beer pumps (fonts) via Proxama, the UK’s leading NFC and mobile contactless specialists. At a basic level it can provide promotional offers but the actual possibilities are endless.

So iPhone users may well soon find themselves unable to enjoy the benefits of promotional offers, competitions, free downloads, information, tickets…the list is endless, leaving you to wonder just how smart an Apple phone is anymore.