By Max Clarke

Google are advancing the smartphone arms race by introducing near-field communication (NFC) technology, allowing for contactless payments, on their Android devices.

Google’s interest in NFC was today evidenced by their appointment to the NFC Forum- a non-profit organisation of technology companies promoting the technology- as a Principal Member.

"The NFC Forum thrives on the active participation of global industry leaders and innovators such as CSR, Google, and Intel," said Koichi Tagawa, chairman of the NFC Forum. "Their energy, ideas, and influence will greatly enhance the work of the Forum, as will the support of our new Associate, Implementer, and Non-Profit members from around the world."

At the launch of the Nexus S, allusions were made to such a move, and fans of Android are welcoming the development. NFC mobile payments are also rumoured to be making their way to Apple devices in the near future, with many expecting subsequent iPhones to be equipped with NFC chips, while Orange has already joined forces with Barclaycard with the aim of offering contactless payments.

If the reports are true, Google could be set to open a new round of iPhone versus Android debates, claims SEO company Queryclick.com. A spokesperson said: "It's a slow burning battle, but Google's Android and Apple's iPhones are set to continue squabbling for top position in the hearts of smartphones fans for years to come.

"While Apple may have had the initial advantage, technology geeks quickly embrace the flexibility and functionality of the Android operating system. New moves like this are exactly the kind of thing Google can use to its advantage, and if it beats Apple to the punch with contactless payments, it could cement its place at the top."

The Nexus S is currently the only NFC ready phone on the market, although Samsung is slated to be releasing the Galaxy S II with this functionality in the summer. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has already announced NFC technology will not be included in the iPhone 5, stating his belief that the technology is still at too early a stage of its evolutionary process.

Creating the ability for users to utilize their mobile phones as credit cards could offer a number of other benefits for the Mountain View moguls. It is not the only company looking for ways to gather information about customers based on the way they interact with their phones, but Google could enjoy the ability to collect valuable data should its plans go ahead.