Apps World 2012: iPhone 5 to slow NFC growth, insiders say

Thousands of developers, marketers, and mobile industry insiders descended on Earls Court this week for Apps World, a multi-pronged event spanning workshops, panels, and an exhibition floor offering up the latest and greatest from the apps industry.

In attendance were mobile giants like Microsoft and BlackBerry, who made valiant efforts to attract developers to their respective platforms. But lesser known companies came out to shill their various products, too, split across four expo villages (mobile marketing, TV apps, content and commerce, and enterprise apps) and an exhibition floor that offered up product demonstrations, expert insight, and plenty of networking opportunities.

The conference also brought together experts and professionals to discuss emerging trends, opportunities, and obstacles in a handful of sectors, with events falling under the umbrellas of Mobile Marketing & Advertising, Operator Apps & VAS, Mobile Payments & NFC, Apps & the Enterprise, TV Apps & Multiscreen, Gaming Apps, HTML5, and zones dedicated to Android and developer opportunities.

One of Apps World’s more valuable offerings was its mobile payments track, which hosted a series of lectures, case studies, and expert-led discussions about NFC technology, its implementation and what it could look like going forward.

At one particularly interesting panel focusing on the barriers to widespread NFC adoption, experts pointed to the newly released iPhone 5’s lack of NFC capability as a thorn in the side of widespread adoption of the technology.

“Apple has the capability to move the market, but they don’t seem to be interested in NFC,” said Rosalind Craven, an IDC senior research analyst specialising in EMEA mobile consumer services, who also said that handset manufacturers overall are in part to blame for the delayed implementation of NFC.

Carlos Garcia Armendariz, formerly a mobile banking director at Santander, agreed with that assessment, adding that skipping NFC on this generation of its smartphone was the right move for Apple. A disheartening lack of strategy surrounding NFC and its applications in daily life makes the technology secondary to the decisions that will be taken by the likes of financial institutions, mobile operators and retailers.

“The main challenge isn’t the moment of payment,” Armendariz said. “The big challenge is finding the right time and right market to introduce the technology.”

While panellists acknowledged that NFC adoption has been slow thus far, they agreed that it will likely pick up as smartphone manufacturers, mobile operators and retailers begin integrating the technology into the distribution channel.

“Customers won’t buy a handset for NFC, but it will become a norm like Bluetooth and a camera in a handset have become,” said John Conlon, a Barclaycard digital payments executive.

Despite a general sense that the public will eventually adapt to NFC, panellists and speakers highlighted security, battery life and regulation as crucial concerns that must be addressed in the near future. Perhaps in time for Apps World 2013?