Samsung’s new Galaxy may be its big entry into NFC payments

Leaked photo of the Galaxy S III from GSM Helpdesk Netherlands

Samsung just revealed the unveiling date for what is probably the second-most anticipated smartphone in the world. It will take the wraps off its latest Galaxy handset at an event in London on May 3. You’re all thinking this will be the highly anticipated Galaxy S III, and you’re probably right, but there may be more to this event than just the new version of Samsung’s flagship phone.
InformationWeek’s Eric Zeman points out the timing and location of the event may not be purely coincidental. Last year, Samsung and Visa made a big to-do about launching a near-field communication (NFC) mobile payment initiative for the 2012 Summer Olympics, which happen to be held in London. Visa(s v) has been installing the NFC terminals throughout London since, but Samsung has said diddly about the new handsets supporting Visa’s secure SIM cards. Zeman posits the Galaxy S III and the Olympics-branded device will be one and the same. That could make the Olympics event a launch pad for a big mobile payments push by Visa and Samsung.
Samsung may not have the mindshare of Apple(s aapl), but the Galaxy has assumed a top spot in the upper echelons of the smartphone market. Samsung has even begun taking a few pages from Apple’s book, separating itself from other smartphone makers by focusing its newest technology on relatively few devices under a single brand and making its product launches events unto themselves.
Samsung didn’t unveil the new Galaxy at Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile technology trade show, and this year it won’t even be exhibiting at CTIA Wireless, the premier mobile trade conference in North America. Samsung will still be on hand in New Orleans for CTIA May 8th, so it may well use the show to promote the U.S. version of whatever Galaxy it unveils the week before.