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Android Ice Cream Sandwich Will Have More NFC Functionality

Google's update to its mobile platform will have even more near-field communication functions built in

Google disclosed some more details regarding the newly announced Android update, Ice Cream Sandwich today. It also showed off some of the cool things Android app developers can do with NFC APIs.

As a technology, NFC is incredibly flexible. It is a low-friction connection that only works in short range. Any time you bring two devices with embedded NFC chips together, they will connect. There's no password to enter or set up; you simply put the devices in close proximity to each other and bam!--you're connected. NFC chips can be embedded in both devices and stickers that store information. For example, an NFC sticker can store a Web page or contact information like a QR code.

Ice Cream Sandwich Gets NFC Love

Even though NFC is already implemented in Android 2.3 ("Gingerbread"), Google has big plans to bring even more functionality to Ice Cream Sandwich. One of Google's goals with the Ice Cream Sandwich update is what it calls "0-click interaction."

In Ice Cream Sandwich, NFC will let Android phone owners set up peer-to-peer connections by simply putting their phones back to back. So, this means you can exchange contact information, share Web pages, YouTube videos--pretty much any sort of content without installing a separate app.

NFC in Android Apps

Google also showed off some neat demos for all the possible features Android app developers can do with NFC APIs. One of the demo apps, Sticky Notes, allows users to leave each other notes by touching their phones together. Another demo app, Google Talk Portal, takes you to a random video chat with another device by touching an NFC sticker.

Perhaps the coolest app scenario for NFC is in gaming. NFC will make initiating head-to-head games incredibly easy. To show how simple this is, Google demonstrated everybody's favorite food slicing game, Fruit Ninja.

The Future of NFC

If you've heard of NFC, you've probably only heard about it in the context of mobile payments. In many parts of Asia and Europe, consumers can use their phones like credit cards thanks to embedded NFC chips in their phones. For example, some public transportation systems let passengers scan their phones against readers as opposed to a card or a ticket.

Using our phones as mobile wallets is certainly an excellent use case for NFC, but I'm still not sure if American consumers are comfortable using their phones like they use credit cards. NFC is still a very new technology on our shores, and I think it is wise of Google to approach it from a content-sharing perspective.

Stay tuned for more news, updates and previews from Google I/O 2011.

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