NFC Cometh? 1M Android NFC Devices Shipping Each Week, And Prototypes Show iPhone 5 Is Next

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Google I/O is in full swing, and stories have been pouring out at a fairly steady pace: Tony Stark Sergey finally demoed Google Glass, Google Drive passed 10 million users and is available on iOS, and we all got a look at Jelly Bean — to name a few.

Yet, overshadowed and buried in lengthy liveblogs is one piece of news that deserves some more attention — and it’s all about NFC. During yesterday’s keynote, Hugo Barra, the director of Android product management, revealed that Google is now shipping 1 million NFC-enabled Android devices every week. That’s pretty significant.

For some context, the company said that 400 million Android devices have now been activated, with activations currently flying in at a rate of 1 million per day. This means that phones with NFC built in represent nearly 15 percent of all new Android devices.

As a result, Android Beam, which was introduced with Ice Cream Sandwich, is getting some cool new features, including the ability to share video by way of NFC as well as the chance to pair phones to other devices just by tapping it. That’s pretty big, as it seems that, in spite of the arguments against NFC, the technology seems to be making it into a not-so-insignificant number of devices people buy every day.

On the flip side, as Jay (and many other experts) remind us that, media chatter notwithstanding, NFC technology likely isn’t on the brink of ubiquity — that in fact it’s still four or five years from reaching critical mass.

This has been the general consensus for awhile now, and probably still holds. Unfortunately, despite great effort to the contrary, I can’t see into the future. However, it’s probably safe to say that Google’s disclosure is a prime indication that things could be changing far more rapidly than many had expected.

After all, Nokia recently launched its first Windows-based NFC phone, along with Orange, and Foursquare added NFC support to its Android app, to name a few recent examples.

But the tipping point for NFC may be on an accelerated timeline if, on top of Google’s NFC Android shipments, the recent rumors swirling around Apple’s plans for the iPhone 5 prove to be true. 9To5Mac reported earlier this week that it had managed to get its hands on some iPhone 5 prototypes, which apparently reveal that the new phone will include an NFC chip and antenna.

Obviously, as 9To5 points out, the implications of this would be pretty huge, setting Apple up to launch its own mobile payment competitor to Google Wallet and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 feature and give iOS users an easy way to share files between devices.

If come October, when Apple is expected to reveal the new iPhone 5, it has NFC built-in, and Google continues shipping NFC-enabled Android phones at its current rate, that means that the major phones consumers will be buying will have this technology. As Jim Peters told 9To5, retailers might want to get ready.

Image Credit: Robupupu