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Hands-on with T-Mobile's HD Voice, Tap Tag app for NFC-ready Android phones

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T-Mobile had more than just big updates at its CES event; it gave us opportunities to try both its newly national HD Voice service and a seemingly unknown carrier-specific NFC app, Tap Tag. The currently Android-only software is best described as a crossover between somewhat simpler existing NFC tag systems. like Samsung's Tectiles, and multi-step automation like Motorola's Smart Actions. Put a Tap Tag-equipped phone against a relevant marker and it will perform one or more customizable tasks, such as putting the phone in a do-not-disturb mode at the same time it sets an alarm for the morning. From our glance through the menus, it's surprisingly deep and flexible without being intimidating. There are pre-defined templates, but nothing's set in stone -- if your definition of an office mode involves launching YouTube and cranking the volume, you can make it happen.

More details, including HD Voice testing, await after the break.

Gallery: T-Mobile Tap Tag and HD Voice hands-on | 7 Photos

The software is in mid-development, with T-Mobile aiming for a launch on the network in the first half of 2013. We're told that the carrier wants true device independence for Tap Tag, to the point where any smartphone on the service can take advantage of it. That ideally includes Windows Phone, the carrier says, hinting that developers have been exploring in that direction.

When it comes to HD Voice, there's ironically not as much to say, although that's ultimately a good thing. In the canned samples we got to try on a Galaxy S III, the wider-band audio was both cleaner and more detailed, as it captured both quiet moments in conversation and the not-so-subtle details of Limp Bizkit -- you know, just in case your phone calls ever involve nu-metal. Sprint's HD Voice isn't available for comparison, so it's tough to say whether T-Mobile has an edge in quality. Having wider coverage and a diverse selection of phones may ultimately be T-Mobile's real ace in the hole.

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