Eric Schmidt Says Android Gingerbread Will Have NFC Walletphone Magic

Eric Schmidt's currently showing off a Nexus S at the Web 2.0 conference, but more exciting than the handset itself is the new feature it's packing courtesy of Android 2.3: near field communication. Hello, Android walletphone.

Schmidt said that Android 2.3, aka Gingerbread, will be rolling out "in the next few weeks." Among its new features will be support for interacting with NFC-enhanced devices and RFID tags. Basically, Google's trying to beat Apple to the phone-wallet punch. It's been speculated that the next iPhone, or maybe more realistically the one after that, would push NFC applications hot and heavy—systems through which your phone could be used as a sort of digital wallet to wirelessly pay for things in retail stores. Their recent hiring of NFC expert Benjamin Vigier bears this out. Of course, retailers will have to equip their locations for these sorts of applications, but with Google and Apple both pushing the technology—Schmidt says he thinks it will eventually replace credit cards—it seems like something of an inevitability.

Schmidt suggested that Nexus S he was using (or, as he referred to it, the "unannounced phone" from an "announced manufacturer") was ready to go for NFC applications, so it seems like the next official Google phone might be leading the contactless payment wave (on T-Mobile? Before the holiday season?). In other news, I think my Gmail just got hacked today, so I'm feeling a bit wary about folding my credit card into the mix, too. Actually, to hell with it, this is the FUTURE we're talking about. [Engadget and The Next Web]