Fonelabs launches range of low-cost NFC phones

The firm’s X-Series handsets incorporate an NFC chip and internal antenna plus an optional MicroSD-based secure element from Cell Idea. They are fully Mifare compatible and are expected to start at under US$100 in volume.

EMERGING MARKETS: Fonelabs' X1 NFC handset, aimed at markets in South East Asia, is expected to cost under $100 in volume
EMERGING MARKETS: Fonelabs' X1 NFC handset, aimed at markets in South East Asia, is expected to cost under $100 in volume

Malaysian mobile device manufacturer Fonelabs has surprised the market with the launch of a a series of low-cost NFC handsets aimed at emerging markets.

The first release of X-Series phones incorporate an NFC chip from NXP Semiconductors and an internal antenna together with an optional MicroSD-based secure element and will be available in May. From the third quarter of 2009, a second generation will also provide compatibility with the Single Wire Protocol (SWP) and will then support the routing of NFC applications to both SD card and SIM card based secure elements.

The phones are also fully compatibility with Mifare, for public transport ticketing applications, and, says the company, can support any financial application relying on smart cards.

“In many developing markets today, NFC and contactless secure cards provide real convenience for urban transportation and are key to the spread of financial services to rural areas,” says Herve Jegou, Fonelabs’ CEO. “With the X-Series NFC enabled mobile phones, we give transport operators and financial institutions in these markets the ability to easily deploy their existing contactless smart cards services into mobile phones.”

“Right now transport operators and service providers can personalize, manage and distribute MicroSD smart cards to their customers just like any of today’s ATM or transport smart cards,” Jegou explains. “Using their existing infrastructure and security model, service providers can instantly extend the convenience and reach of their services to mobile phones running on any mobile network.”

Fonelabs worked on the development of the X-Series with Cell Idea, the Hong Kong-based start up that launched an NFC MicroSD card at the CES earlier this year.

“We believe that MicroSD is a very powerful means of bringing smart cards and secure applications to various consumer electronic products, especially to mobiles,” says Omer Katz, CTO of Cell Idea. “Our Secure NFC Micro-Card is the perfect vehicle for financial institutions, transport operators and other NFC service providers to store their applications in a safe and secure way that is easy to deploy.”

NXP has also been heavily involved in the development of the handset. “NXP has been working very closely with Fonelabs to develop this handset,” says Steffen Steinmeier, NXP’s global marketing manager for NFC. “As existing contactless infrastructure for automatic ticketing and mobile payments can be easily leveraged with NFC-enabled handsets, we are confident that these phones will find an instant market in countries such as China, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand.”

“The introduction of this low-cost NFC enabled mobile phone from Fonelabs is a huge step forward in the wide-scale rollout of NFC technology in the South East Asia region,” he added.

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