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Nokia is working on a Windows Phone model that incorporates NFC (Near Field Communications) technology to connect to external accessories – and is even considering versions with wireless charging, its design chief has indicated in an exclusive interview.
The company is also working closely with Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), which is providing the software for its new top-end smartphones, to co-ordinate software details such as tile colours to match its hardware accessories, Marko Ahtisaari, Nokia’s head of design, told the Guardian.
New versions of the Lumia design, introduced to showcase Windows Phone in November, will also remove the flip-up plastic tab that presently covers the micro-USB charger for the phone – one of just two moving parts on the Lumia 800 phone.
“If you can take away a moving part and make it [the phone] more beautiful in the placement of the components, we’ll do it, so that’s something where we can certainly keep improving,” Ahtisaari told the Guardian. “Take it to the extreme, and why are there any connectors?”
Ahtisaari is extremely influential within Nokia (NYSE: NOK), having been appointed last week to its leadership team, reporting directly to chief executive Stephen Elop.The removal of the USB connector would imply the use of wireless charging – a system that has already been demonstrated by products such as HP’s TouchPad, which had a wireless charging system. A Nokia spokesman said the company declined to comment on future product features.
Speaking in Nokia’s headquarters in Espoo, Finland, earlier this month, Ahtisaari said that new elements will “ship with the product that we will ship in the future”. Nokia already has “open NFC” incorporated into a number of its smartphones to enable rapid, password-free setup of Bluetooth pairing between phones and accessories such as speakers and headsets.
Although current versions of Windows Phone do not include NFC elements, Microsoft has indicated that it could be included in versions shipping by October 2012. And Elop also said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that although the current Windows Phone Lumia models – the 800 and 900 – do not have NFC, “it is growing in importance, and I personally believe in it”.
NFC “open” allows Bluetooth pairing without the use of password by tapping the devices to be paired together: an exchange of electronic tokens takes place, so that Bluetooth connection – for a hi-fi, speakers or headset – can occur within seconds with virtually no other interaction. Current secure Bluetooth pairing otherwise requires the user to enter a password of up to eight digits.
Nokia has shipped more than a million Lumia phones since introducing them in November. The company decided to abandon its Symbian platform for high-end smartphones in January 2011 after Elop decided it could not compete against Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating systems.
He also suggested that touchscreen interaction is in its very early days, comparing it to the early days of the automobile: “In the 1880s in the car industry cars had tillers – it took 15 years to agree on the steering wheel controlling the front wheels. We’re in the middle of that part of the evolution of interaction.”
Charles Arthur’s trip to Finland was paid for by Finnfacts, an independent media service organisation that provides contacts between international media and Finnish business.
This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.