After a series of rumors surfacing in the media and final solid proof of a video demonstrating the company's Windows Phone lineup to pack NFC capabilities, Nokia has finally made it official and announced the unveiling of Lumia 610 NFC. The Finnish phone manufacturer has further confirmed that the company will pair up with the operator, Orange, to debut the range of Lumia 610 NFC in Europe with NFC accessories, including Nokia's Play 360 speaker and read NFC tags.

Rather than demanding that users scan for new Bluetooth devices and then punch in a PIN-code, the Lumia 610 NFC will allow them to simply tap the handset against the accessory and see it automatically pair up.

The Lumia 610 NFC would also integrate the hardware and software enablers for the implementation of NFC payment and ticketing solutions and has further been certified for contactless payments both with MasterCard PayPass technology, and with Visa's mobile application for payments at the point of sale, Visa payWave.

Commenting on the same, Ilari Nurmi, head of product marketing for Nokia's Smart Devices business unit said in the company press release, Nokia continues to lead the field in NFC with this latest implementation on the Windows Phone platform, in which we have the full support of Orange. We're bringing NFC right across our portfolio, and together with our ever-growing range of NFC accessories we're making it easy for people to connect via a single tap. We're also enabling operators and other service providers to build NFC payment and ticketing solutions on top of our smartphones.

According to a new research report by Berg Insight, it was estimated that global sales of handsets featuring Near Field Communication (NFC) increased ten-fold in 2011 to 30 million units. Growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 87.8 percent, shipments are forecast to reach 700 million units in 2016.

For those who are still not familiar with the term, Near-field communication is the technology that lets you wave a phone in front of a payment kiosk in place of a credit card.

The price of the device has not been released so far, but the Lumia 610 NFC is expected to be available early in the third quarter of 2012.  In the recent past, Google Wallet got a headstart on the pay-by-phone front this year. Wireless carriers have banded together on their own NFC payment plan, called Isis, and Apple is rumored to be putting NFC in future iPhones.

Check out the major five competitors that might have an edge over the Lumia 610 NFC. While phones like HTC One X and Galaxy Nexus S are already in the market, Samsung Galaxy S3, iPhone 5 and LG Viper 4G LTE will be released soon.

HTC One X

Taiwanese phone giant, HTC's new flagship phone the HTC One X has been released for purchase in the UK market from April 5 through various wireless carriers including T-Mobile network. The new phone features impressive 8-megapixel camera, runs the latest version of Android (version 4 - aka Ice Cream Sandwich), the latest version of HTC Sense (also version 4) and offers a superfast performance with its Tegra 3 1.5GHz quad-core processor. Not to forget, the smartphone boasts the unique feature of the NFC chip which will let the users exchange data just by tapping it against compatible objects. It also comes loaded with 1800mAh battery.

HTC One X is expected for a mid-May release in the US market and may surely lure the Lumia fans towards its power-packed features with NFC.

LG Viper 4G LTE

Sprint recently announced a late April US launch date for the new NFC-enabled LG Viper 4G LTE smartphone at an affordable $100 price tag. Since the device is now available for pre-order, the Android 2.3 powered Viper features an embedded NFC connectivity, 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 4-inch touch screen, 1 GB of RAM, mobile hotspot capabilities and a 4GB card microSD slot that supports up to 32GB.

With the embedded NFC feature, the Viper will join the short list of phones from Sprint that are able to use mobile payments service Google Wallet.

Sprint, a launch partner of Google Wallet, announced last month that it would release no less than 10 Google Wallet-compatible phones in 2012, starting with the LG Viper. Hence, this medium-priced smartphone could be the true competitor against the Lumia 610 NFC.

iPhone 5

Apple won a major patent recently for its iWallet technology, which is a digital system that would enable NFC technology and help users to complete credit card transactions through their iPhones offering complete control over their subsidiary financial accounts. The good news is that the killer app is rumored to appear on the next-gen smartphone, presumably called the iPhone 5.

So it could get very difficult for Nokia Lumia 610 NFC to entice the iPhone lovers, once Apple's sixth generation device is launched. Since, with the NFC chip, the iPhone 5 is rumored to come with a host of specs and features including Quad-Core A6 Chip, iOS 6.0, 8 megapixel or even 10 megapixel camera with a 2 megapixel front-facing camera for video chatting, maybe a 3D camera as well, an upgraded Siri with a better battery life than the Li-Po 1420 mAh battery. The new iPhone is also expected to be a 4G LTE device.

Samsung Galaxy S3

The most-anticipated smartphone of the year, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is also speculated to make a comeback with 4G LTE connectivity and the latest Near Field Communication (NFC) feature. The biggest rival of the iPhone 5, it may also pose a threat to Lumia 610 NFC,  as S3 is expected to dent the smartphone market with some exclusive power-packed features, including 4.7-inch Super AMOLED HD panel Non-PenTile Display with 1280×720-pixel resolution.

Further, the device is expected to boast a super-fast processor, possibly quad-core Exynos CPU clocked at 1.8 GHz and it is also expected to come with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage.

Giving expandable memory options, S3 would also support microSD card up to 64GB. Samsung's next generation line up will run on Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 with TouchWiz overlay. And it may also get a spectacular upgrade from an 8 megapixel camera in Galaxy S2 to a powerful 12 megapixel camera that would record 1080p videos at 60fps in its upcoming flagship model.

Galaxy Nexus LTE

According to recent media reports, an LTE version of the Galaxy Nexus may be hitting Sprint in a couple weeks. The reports were spurred when a leaked document, cited to be an internal communication in Sam's Club, mentioned that a product called Galaxy Nexus LTE will be available in all stores on April 22.

The Sprint is the only carrier that supports Google Wallet and Galaxy Nexus is an NFC-enabled phone, which means now it will have the technological power to use Google Wallet. Hence a sure hit against Lumia 610 NFC.

The Galaxy Nexus has a 4.65-inch HD Super AMOLED display and a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and is currently available on Verizon.