Friday, 9 November 2012


Mike TheCoolPerson
This is, to quote Mike from The Young Ones, is the moment of not telling too many lies...

I've got NFC payments enable don my phone.  If you don't know what that is, I would suggest that you may as well just about go and kill yourself right now, but because I'm feeling merciful today, I'll explain: it's contactless payments for small amounts (no more than £20 at present).  You know those contactless debit/credit/pre-paid cards that have been slowly increasing in circulation for a few years?  Where you can just wave the card over the chip & PIN device thingy and it just deducts the money from your account, no change, no fuss?  Well, now you can get it as an app on your phone.  Assuming your phone is one of a limited (but rapidly increasing) number of devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S3 but, notably, not any of the iPhone iterations. 

The phone doesn't even need to be switched on and it still works and you can manage your account from the app and everything.  Pretty cool, right?  And soon there'll be all sorts of loyalty and travel and ticketing and ID services on it too.  Admittedly, I'm biased because I work in this industry, but I cannot wait until the full potential of this is realised.  It's a little slow to take off at the moment, since retailers need to upgrade to contactless point of sales systems en masse before it can be used everywhere, but there are already many more places than you'd expect that you can do this.  And that's bound to accelerate even more rapidly when Apple decides to pretend it invented NFC, I'm guessing (and I stress guessing - no insider knowledge) with the next iPhone iteration.  Or to be fair, when clueless iPhone punter-slave-fans assume Apple invented it and Apple simply fails to correct them.  Par for the course these days.  Did you know, for instance, that Apple invented the rectangle?

What's all this got to do with TfL, I hear you asking.  Well, hang on: I'm getting there.

Nectar of the gods
When I said I cannot wait until the full potential of NFC is realised, I meant it.  I love watching people (including the retail assistants who, presumably trained on the system, should know better) gawp like morons when I wave my phone in the direction of the cash register to pay for things, as happened this morning at the tiny corner shop in Kingston which just so happens to sell root beer, also known as 'what god would drink if he existed'.

Even more fun, I thought, to use my phone to travel the TfL network, instead of the sooooooooo 2011 Oyster card.  Sadly, it's not possible to do that yet.  So I cheated.  I shoved my Oyster card behind the back casing of my phone: invisible, but effective.  I thought.  Capable of fooling the public and gormless TfL staff alike into thinking I, or at least my phone, had superhuman powers.  I thought.  Perhaps likely to lead to there being some sort of cult founded in my name.  I thought.

Yes, all of these turned out to be true.  OK, not the cult bit but do you have to be such a pedant?  Sadly, there's very little space between the battery of an S3 and the back casing.  Over the course of the last five days, the additional pressure bulging caused by the millimetre or so thickness of the Oyster card has kept causing the back case to come off, seriously damaging my street cred.  I kept forcing it back on until, yesterday, it suddenly became much easier.  Because the casing just snapped.  Oops.  Anyone have a spare?

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