Your phone replacing your wallet. That's the promise of NFC; payments made with a wave of your handset. The only problem? Despite Google's — and now Apple's — best efforts, it hasn't happened yet. But Windows Phone 8 might finally usher in the future we've been waiting for.
Microsoft's solution, in fact, combines Google's NFC payment options and Apple's membership card scheme, keeping all of your third-party apps and services in one place. The Windows Phone 8 NFC plans even take Google Wallet a step further by getting its carrier partners on board and putting your private information on "secure SIMs" instead of the phone itself. Why's that important? Some US carriers have had a rocky relationship with Google Wallet, going so far as to block it from device launches. Get everyone on the same page early, and you've got yourself a unified platform.
There are other NFC goodies that aren't necessarily revolutionary, but they are thoughtful. The Wallet hub comes equipped with its own PIN, so you don't have to lock your whole phone to secure your mobile monies. And in-app purchases can be made through your Wallet as well. Ditto with app purchases — any time you would pay for something with your phone, it can be routed through your Wallet.
Wallet is also where you can stick group vouchers and gift card tiles, much like you can in iOS 6's Passbook. The Wallet will also enable deals — everything does these days! — in conjunction with Microsoft's Local Scout app.
It's a convenience on its own — a way to save space in your back pocket and a nudge towards the future. But combined with the ability to actually make payments? That is the future. Google and Apple had the parts. Windows Phone 8 has made them whole.
The NFC goodness will be available in the US sometime next year — a little more vague than we maybe would have liked. But as long as it's a promise Microsoft keeps, it should be worth the wait. For those of us not in the US, we're probably going to be waiting a long, long time.