Your Phone Is So Money

A tiny add-on chip will turn your cellphone into a credit card, bus schedule, concert ticket and more

Forgot your wallet? You´ll need a better excuse than that for passing on the check. By next year, you´ll be able to pay simply by swiping your cellphone a few inches from a cash register, with a new wireless standard called Near Field Communication. An NFC chip in your phone will send your credit-card number-stored on your phone or on the chip-by way of short-distance radio waves. An electronic reader at the checkout will decode the number and ring up your purchase.

Unlike radio-frequency identification (RFID) and other existing contactless payment systems, NFC chips allow two-way information exchange by rolling an RF transmitter and reader into one five-millimeter package. That means the chip can also take in data, such as a receipt zapped to it by a cash register or a bus schedule from a tag embedded in a bus-stop sign.

You don´t even have to buy a new phone. When it hits stores next spring, the miniSD-card-size adapter from SanDisk can add NFC to any smartphone with a Symbian operating system when it hits stores next spring. The first pay-by-phone option should roll out later this year, with more applications to follow.

For three things Near Field Communication can do for you, launch the photo gallery.

Get You In
Your phone can store your commuter pass and radio it to an entrance turnstile. Bus-riders in Hanau, Germany, are already swiping their way on board in the first commercial application of NFC. Next up: movie, concert and plane tickets.Nik Schulz/L-Dopa
Get You Info
Any object with an NFC tag can send information to another. For example: A tagged DVD box at the store can send your phone a movie trailer. And in a current trial in Atlanta, users wave their phones in front of a poster to receive game stats and videos of their favorite Hawks players.Nik Schulz/L-Dopa
Get You Stuff
Since Near Field Communication uses the same radio frequency as current touch-free payment cards, such as Speedpass, your phone will work with existing readers. But it has an extra advantage: You can lock your handset with a password, so if it's lost, no one else can use it.Nik Schulz/L-Dopa