When you're the RC Cola of wireless carriers, you have to try a little harder. Sprint says it will have near field communications (NFC) available on its phones later this year. That would scoop Isis, a massive joint effort from Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile that likely won't be ready until 2012. The revenue model will be a little different as well:

Rather than take a percentage of each transaction, as Isis plans, Sprint could share in revenue from sales of coupons sent to its customers' handsets or targeted advertising, McGinnis said. Users' purchases would be billed through their regular credit-card statements.

"That's considered the holy grail in preventing bill shock," said Richard Crone, president of Crone Consulting LLC in San Carlos, California. "All the carriers will have to work on merchant acceptance, which today is very low."

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