Sony’s NFC-friendly Xperia sola phone

Sony has just unveiled the Xperia sola, a phone that it describes as having a “touch of magic.”

One of the key features of the sola is its support for Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. This means that it has the ability to let customers tap their phone at retail stores to pay for purchases. Credit card and other payment information is stored within software on the phone so that users don’t need to take their physical credit cards to the store.

In addition, Sony is featuring another NFC feature called Xperia SmartTags. This is a new trend in the NFC world that has nothing to do with mobile payments but still takes advantage of the contactless nature of NFC technology.

With SmartTags, users have a physical tag or sticker that they can have at their desk, on a table, or wherever. If they swipe their phone across the tag, it automatically changes the phone profile. So for example, if you want your phone to go into silent mode when you get to the office, just swipe it across the SmartTag at your cubicle and voila.

In addition to NFC, the sola has a 3.7-inch Realitiy Display, a 1 GHz dual-core processor, xLoud and 3D surround sound audio technology, and access to the Sony Entertainment Network, giving users the ability to watch videos and listen to music by logging into the same account they have on their PS3 or Playstation Vita.

The phone will launch with Android 2.3, but Sony promises to offer an upgrade to version 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, in the summer.

It also features what Sony calls “floating touch” functionality for Web browsing. “Sony’s unique floating touch lets consumers navigate the web by hovering their finger above the screen so it acts like a moving curser, without actually having to touch the screen.  Once the desired link is found it can be highlighted and a simple tap will load the page.  Floating touch will evolve with new user functionality and applications through software updates and engagement with developers,” Sony explained.