NFC in Phones: What is it? Why do We Need it?

By August 13, 2019 phones

NFC stands for near field communication. It is a communication system that is only effective when the devices are in close proximity or touching. The method does not require Wi-Fi or data, and it is free to use. It sends and receives data through radio waves, which is why powerless objects like cards can still carry a signal for use when they contact a powered device. Using NFC simply requires a small chip.

There are three modes of NFC that smartphones can engage in.

  • Reader/writer: This method allows your phone to read passive tags.
  • Peer to peer: This use helps one phone to communicate with another and share information.
  • Card emulation: This mode is for making payments.

NFC in phones

Uses for NFC

You might be wondering what use you may have for NFC when phones are generally pretty quick at sending information through messaging. Here are a few cases, where NFC can be more convenient and faster than other methods of transmitting information.

Send a Picture

If you want to send your friend ten pictures, but don’t want to text them all individually, then NFC will come in handy. It will also put the image directly in the recipient’s camera roll.

Send a Contact

If you want to get someone’s phone number quickly and want to reduce the potential for error by trying to type it yourself, then you can use NFC.

Pay for Something

All contactless payment methods utilize NFC. Setting it up on your phone will allow you to pay for your purchases with a simple touch. If you are out of cash, this can be helpful in a pinch.

Share an App

If your friend thinks your app is really cool, you can share it with them through NFC. Using this method will open up that app’s page in the Google Play store.

Send Directions

Once you input an address into Google Maps, with NFC, all you need to do is tap phones, and your friend will know exactly how to get to your place.

Reading NFC Tags

These tags can be embedded in just about anything and provide useful information directly to your smartphone. One example is additional product information on a display in a store. You can buy NFC stickers and create new possibilities for yourself.

NFC is particularly useful when you need to transmit information without a Wi-Fi network or the use of data. You can still learn what you need to know even if you just have a phone with no connections.

Android Beam

Now that you know some reasons you might need NFC. Let’s discuss how to use it for Android. On Android devices, it is known as “Android Beam“. First, you need to know if your phone carries this capability. To do so, open your settings and navigate to the Wireless and Networks tab to see if it mentions NFC.

Once this feature is enabled on both devices, all you need to do is touch them together to send information back and forth. When the phones are touching, a simple confirmation is required. Just tap “touch to beam”, and you will be able to send information right away.

One setback that people have experienced is their NFC chips not being located in the same place. However, once you try tapping the phones together in a few different locations, it likely won’t be too difficult to figure out what works. One other issue that Android users have experienced is imperfect cross-compatibility. However, the downsides are minor compared to the many helpful uses that exist.

iPhone Equivalent

More recent iPhones do have some NFC capabilities. The first model to feature NFC was the iPhone 6. It wasn’t until iPhone 7 that NFC tags could be read. However, for quick communication, most iPhone users utilize AirDrop. This system differs from NFC because it uses Bluetooth. A plus of AirDrop is that the devices do not need to touch physically for it to be used.

One helpful feature on new iPhones (only XR and XS models) is their ability to read NFC tags from the home screen without the need for a third-party app. Apple Pay is one of the most widely used features that uses NFC. Apple Pay allows users to pay for goods and services with a single tap and verification of identity.

Is NFC Safe?

Many people have expressed concerns about the safety of this communication system. Some worry that it leaves their personal information open to breaches. However, because of the close proximity required for NFC to work, few problems have been reported. Payment methods are also encrypted using a digital account number rather than your actual credit card number, no matter if you’re paying everything outright, or use Afterpay to pay for your phone, Humm, or another payment service.

NFC was first developed in 2002. Since then, its uses have grown exponentially. It is exciting to think about what might be next for this burgeoning technology.

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