November 17, 2010, 10:24 AM — Grab your hoverboards, gang: The next generation of Android phones is on the way, and it's going to feel a bit like something out of Back to the Future II.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt gave us a sneak peak at what's in store for Android's newest handsets during a session at the Web 2.0 Summit on Monday (video here). In addition to providing a few new clues about the hotly anticipated Android Gingerbread release, Schmidt revealed that upcoming Android devices would include support for something called Near Field Communication.
Near Field Communication -- better known by its acronym, NFC -- uses a combination of hardware and software to let you essentially turn your phone into a wallet. Future Android phones will have NFC chips built in, Schmidt said, and the Android Gingerbread release will provide the software needed to allow them to function.
So what's this NFC stuff all about, and how will it actually work with Google Android smartphones? Here's a quick primer on what you can expect.
Google's NFC Android phones will let you make contact-free payments.
One of the primary ways NFC will be used within Android will be as a mobile payment system, Schmidt says. Thanks to the chips' short-range wireless capabilities, an NFC-enabled smartphone will allow you to simply wave your device in front of a retailer's sensor and have your purchase immediately placed onto your credit card or banking account. It's something Schmidt refers to as a "tap and pay" method of purchasing -- and its impact could be enormous.
"This could replace your credit card," he says.
Google's NFC Android phone-based payments should be secure.
Schmidt and others contend that having your payment system on your phone is actually more secure than carrying it around on a piece of plastic, as it provides a greater level of authentication. And rather than imprinting your account number on a easily readable card, an NFC-enabled device keeps it encrypted and password-protected inside the phone.
"The credit card industry thinks that the loss rate is going to be much better. They're just fundamentally more secure," Schmidt says.