Nowadays, Near Field Communication, or NFC, technology is incorporated into the majority of smartphones. You are already familiar with how NFC functions if you have ever used a mobile payment app like Samsung Pay or Google Pay. It is a proximity-based wireless communication standard, to put it briefly. But the range of NFC contact is much shorter than that of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. In addition to smartphones, NFC can occasionally be found on speakers, collectibles, gaming consoles like the Nintendo Switch and 3DS, and even tablets.
Even if NFC’s low range makes it appear a little lackluster on paper, it’s still a really useful function that many of us take for granted every day. So, let’s quickly review NFC‘s definition and operation in this essay. We’ll also go over scenarios in which you’ll use the technology in the real world later.
What is NFC and how does it work?
We’ve already given you a succinct explanation of what it is, but how does NFC operate? NFC isn’t a completely novel piece of technology. It is merely a development of the decades-old RFID (radio frequency identification) technology. You already know how it works if you’ve ever used a key card to enter an office block or hotel room.
At least for short-range applications, inductive coupling is the operating concept behind both RFID and NFC. The reading device simply creates a magnetic field by running an electric current via a coil in order to accomplish this. Without using any wires or even physical touch, the area causes an electric current to flow within a tag that has its own coil when it is brought close by. Wireless transmission of any stored data from the tag to the reader follows the initial handshake.
Although NFC is based on RFID technology, its transmission range is substantially shorter.
In terms of transmission ranges, RFID and NFC are fundamentally different. Over longer distances, the former is frequently used. For example, some places automatically collect road tolls using RFID technology. Typically, tags are attached to the windscreens of cars, and you need to drive through the toll booth. If the RFID tag has a power source, communication can occur across even greater distances (imagine 100 feet or more).
NFC, however, has a maximum range of little more than a few centimeters. Additionally, you’ll discover that in the majority of smartphone-related applications, the program will only start a conversation if there is physical touch. This is to avoid unintentional triggers, which is crucial now that sensitive data is transferred using the technology. The ability of devices to function as NFC readers or tags is another important consideration. You may utilize a single piece of hardware, like your smartphone, for a variety of functions because of its bidirectional capability.
Do all smartphones have NFC?
At this time, NFC has been a standard feature on cellphones in Western regions for a number of years. Back in 2010, the first Android device to do so was the Google Nexus S. Apple used the technique in 2014 as well. Since the iPhone 6, NFC has been a feature on every iPhone. Similarly to that, wearable gadgets like smartwatches like the Apple Watch and fitness trackers like the Mi Band also have it.
These days, the majority of smartphones and wearables have NFC capabilities.
Only older, less expensive gadgets typically lack NFC today. Nevertheless, the significance of NFC may differ regionally. Due to the low penetration of the technology in markets like India, some manufacturers, like Xiaomi, omit the coil.
What can you do with NFC?
The uptake of NFC has considerably increased recently. Here are some prevalent applications for the technology:
Google debuted Android Beam in 2011 with the release of Android Ice Cream Sandwich. You may share any information or material that was on your screen with other NFC-capable devices using this capability. Touching the backs of the two devices was all that was required to accept the transfer prompt. Only recently was Android Beam abandoned in favor of Nearby Share, which makes use of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct.
Your smartphone’s NFC chip is used by Samsung Pay, Google Pay, and Apple Pay for contactless transactions. Nowadays, the majority of debit and credit cards come equipped with an NFC tag. The aforementioned apps simply mimic these marks with approval from the financial institution or issuing bank, as appropriate. Once configured, all you have to do is approach the card reader with your smartphone or wearable device. NFC is used by apps like Google Pay and Samsung Pay to enable contactless payments.
Even non-screen gadgets can benefit from NFC’s convenience. It is commonly used by wireless speakers and headphones to transmit pairing data to your smartphone. Some cameras use it as a quick way to connect to Wi-Fi Direct for simple photo and video transfer.
Public transport access
NFC-based cards are used in several cities’ public transport systems, including those in Hong Kong, Singapore, and London. Some systems even let you use Google Pay and other payment apps instead of carrying along a card.
Nintendo makes use of technology to link real toys with video games. The only difference between an Amiibo and another action figure or trading card is that it also has an inbuilt NFC chip. One of them automatically provides your extra characters, levels, or bonus stuff for a certain game when you place it next to a Nintendo Switch or 3DS.
NFC is also supported by a few smart home technologies, such as Home Assistant and Apple’s HomeKit. You can set up off-the-shelf NFC tags to control appliances or automation using apps on both Android and iOS.
How do NFC, Bluetooth, and UWB compare?
There are several other wireless communication protocols besides NFC. In fact, related technologies like Bluetooth and ultra-wideband (UWB) are already present in the majority of devices. Why then add another?
NFC’s ability to create connections without explicit input or pairing is one of its main advantages. Tapping takes less than a second. In contrast, Bluetooth devices need to link with one another, which is a somewhat laborious process.
Given the narrow communication range, NFC is also substantially more energy-efficient than Bluetooth and UWB. The NFC radio is typically enabled by default on smartphones, but turning off Bluetooth is frequently the first tip for saving battery life.
In comparison to Bluetooth, NFC consumes less power and operates more quickly.
In fact, NFC’s lower power consumption also enables use in emergency situations for some devices, such as the iPhone. As a result, even if your phone runs out of battery, it will still transfer just enough power to the NFC chip to allow you to enter your campus, hotel room, or vehicle.
Although UWB technology is beginning to be used in cars for keyless entry, it is not even close to as effective as NFC. Because of this, it is understandable why many automakers use the latter as a backup access method. The majority of the applications now supported by NFC don’t require positional precision, and UWB is considerably more expensive. Furthermore, it’s obvious that the technology has found a market for itself given how many NFC use cases have already been developed. Therefore, adoption is probably only going to get better from this point forward.
What is an NFC tag?
A copper coil and a modest amount of storage make up the little integrated circuit that serves as an NFC tag. This tag lacks a power supply, thus data may only be read from or written to it when another NFC device is brought close to it. Data transmission is made possible by the tag receiving power from the NFC device when it is close by.
What is an NFC reader?
An NFC reader can be any powered device with its own NFC coil, such as a smartphone or tablet. The reading device generates an electromagnetic field with the help of its battery, which powers any tags brought close to it. A payment terminal is another typical illustration of a reader because it employs NFC to verify a debit or credit card.
Do iPhones have NFC? What about NFC Android devices?
Since the iPhone 5S in 2014, every iPhone model (6 and upwards) has come equipped with NFC hardware. Regarding Android, the majority of mid-range and expensive devices support NFC. To find out if the feature is available, check the manufacturer’s website or third-party reviews.
Does my phone have NFC and how can I tell?
You can definitely use NFC on a current iPhone (from 2015 or later) if you have the necessary hardware. You may search for NFC on Android by opening the Settings app and selecting the “Connected Devices” or “Network and Sharing” sub-menus. Modern Android smartphones enable NFC.
Regarding my phone or any other NFC gadget, what does NFC stand for?
Near Field Communication is an abbreviation. It is a technique that uses radio waves to enable wireless data transmission across small distances.
How do I turn off NFC on iPhone?
On an iPhone, you cannot specifically turn off NFC. By default, the feature is always on. The good news is that it uses very little juice, so switching off NFC won’t be as useful as switching off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
What are NFC mobile payments?
Use apps like Google Pay, Samsung Pay, or Apple Pay to simulate a contactless debit or credit card on your smartphone via NFC. Since NFC is used by payment terminals, your smartphone effectively imitates the information on your card. Due to the need for bank authentication during the process, only the account holder may add their card.