Flomio Aims To Beat Apple To iPhone NFC Punch
By Ben Carsley
When Apple released the iPhone 5 back in September, it decided to exclude NFC capabilities from the most anticipated smartphone of all time.
Odds are, you’ve heard about that. It made a few headlines.
Now, Flomio, a startup based on helping developers build NFC and RFID-enabled apps, has decided they don’t want to wait until the next iteration of Apple’s smartphone to bet on NFC. Instead, they’ve decided to grant NFC abilities to the iPhone before Apple gets another chance.
That’s the goal of their new Kickstarter campaign created to develop FloJack: an NFC reader that takes the concept of Square’s dongle (and its imitators), and applies the same logic to contactless. FloJack would plug into an iOS device’s headphone jack, and voila – Siri will be singing about NFC in no time.
According to Mashable, Flomio also has an app called Flomio NFC Actions, which lets users set up custom actions they’d like to perform between devices, such as exchanging contact information or giving directions.
As of right Monday, November 12, FloJack’s Kickstarter goal sits at $20, 279, with 14 days left to meet the $80,000 pledge.
While FloJack’s NFC attempt is interesting, it doesn’t really address any of the issues that led Apple to exclude NFC in the first place. NFC’s mainstream adoption is still questionable at best, and even those with NFC-equipped phones, such as the Galaxy S III, can’t use their devices to make payments at most locations.
We’ve seen companies dependent on NFC payments, such as Isis, run into trouble time and time again, delaying launches and then witnessing lackluster results during pilots.
Aside from technical issues, NFC is also up against the practical theory that people drive technology: not the other way around. Sure, NFC may be a cool concept. And yes, many would likely sometimes enjoy tap-and-pay functionality. But does it offer enough to change consumer behavior? Are the incentives for merchant POS adoption strong enough, considering the costs of installing new terminals and systems? Some say yes, but we’ve seen plenty of execs say no.
All of these reasons are why we predicted the iPhone 5 wouldn’t have NFC in the first place, and while Flomio’s solution could appeal to the subset of iPhone owners who really feel as though NFC is important, it’s a pretty safe bet that such a population is comparatively small.
Plus, would people really be willing to carry around a dongle and attach it to their sleek and stylish iPhones just for a new, largely inaccessible way to pay? To be fair, we can’t rule out the possibility that they would, but it’s not unreasonable to have doubts.
If only around one percent of all U.S. merchants except NFC payments, Apple makes up only a third of the smartphone market and not every iPhone user cares about NFC, one has to ask: just who would really benefit from FloJack?
If Flomio can raise another $60,000 in the next two weeks, maybe we’ll find out.
Ben Carsley is a writer and editor for PYMNTS.com.
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