What is NFC Technology Explained


October 8, 2020

“NFC is attracting a lot of attention thanks to its many uses. It’s responsible for making tap-and-go services possible, from smart payments to smart security.”

But what exactly is NFC and how does it work? This guide will investigate, so by the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll know it means and what you can use it for.

NFC stands for Near Field Communication. It allows your cellphone to connect with something nearby (around 4cm away). NFC provides a wireless connection between your device and anothers, allowing for two-way communication. NFC does not rely on WiFi, 4G, 5G, LTE or other services and there’s no fee for using it.

It may just be gaining popularity in the US, but UK users have been using NFC for years, probably without realising it. The most obvious example is credit and debit cards. The technology has now moved into the cellphone industry, meaning you can use the likes of Google Pay for purchases and turning your device into a digital wallet.


How To Tell If Your Device Has NFC


Open Settings > More > Wireless & Networks and look for the NFC option. Most smartphones today already have NFC integrated including the new iPhones.


How Does NFC Work?


NFC communicates via radio waves. Devices that use this protocol are able to easily transmit and receive data using this method. This is different from Bluetooth which uses electromagnetic induction to communicate. As such, NFC devices don’t need their own power source to transmit data when it comes into contact with another eligible device.

Active NFC devices have three modes:

  • Reader/writer
  • Card emulation
  • Peer-to-peer


How To Use NFC On Android


how to use nfc with android beam

“NFC and Android Beam must first be enabled on both devices.”

When enabled on both devices, you can try the following examples:


Sending A Phone Number

NFC is the easiest way to send someone your phone number as you don’t have to type in any digits. Simply navigate to a contact in the address book and connect the two phones back-to-back. When prompted with “touch to beam”, confirm the transfer.


Sending A Picture

There are other ways to send someone a quick picture and NFC is the answer. Open the image you wish to send in the Gallery or other image viewer and bring both devices together.


Sending A Document

This process can be a little bit trickier than those above. For example, if you want to send a PDF, then it’s likely your device will want to transfer the viewing app itself rather than the file.

Android Beam is the solution in this case. Find the file to share > tap the three tops icon > Share > Android Beam. Then connect the two devices together as normal.


Share Directions

There are plenty of situations where you need to explain directions to someone, but NFC means you don’t have to use those awkward arm movements as well. Use Google Maps to find the route and bring the two phones together to share the directions with the other person.


Open An App On Someone Else’s Phone

Playing a game or using an app on your friend’s phone? If so, you can use NFC to launch it for them. For example, let’s say you’re using a video player and your buddy wants to see what they have recorded on theirs too, but they can’t find the app to do it. In this case, just tap the two phones together and beam.


Making A Payment

As mentioned previously, NFC can be used for purchases on your smartphone or even your smartwatch. Download a wallet app from example Google Play Store or App Store, if you’re using an iOS device then you can add your credit or debit card. After it’s been verified, you can use it in any store that accepts contactless payments.


Connecting With NFC Tags

NFC tags contain chips that can provide all sorts of information to your smartphone. They usually contain web address links but they can also be used to perform set actions like putting your phone on silent mode, or turning the WiFi on and off.

NFC has a small edge of QR because it doesn’t require a scanner. Instead, the information is available immediately.

Theoretically speaking, NFC tags can be embedded into almost anything, such as in a restaurant menu to load up the latest foods and drinks on your smartphone. Simply bring your phone to within close proximity of the menu and there’s potential to see more details about the menu, such as the ingredients or allergy information.

You can also use NFC tags to control certain devices with your phone. For example, you could scan an NFC tag with your phone to turn on your TV, or have one next to your bed to turn a night light on at a certain time in the morning.


Is NFC Safe?


NFC communicated through the air and there’s nothing stopping people eavesdropping or subjecting you to what’s known as man-in-the-middle attacks.

However, because NFC only works over a very close proximity, potential thieves would have to get within a couple of centimeters of both devices in order to steal the data.

If you’re using NFC for payments, the common apps out there like Google Pay are regulated and never transmit your credit card details to the receiving device. Instead, payment details are identified by an individual digital account number.

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