You are currently viewing NFC on smartphones: What is it all about?

Have you ever used Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay? If so, you have actually already used the NFC feature available on your smartphone. The technology is now available across a variety of devices on the market. That being said, there are more applications for this technology than mobile payments. In this post, we’ll talk about the rich and versatile technology of NFC on smartphones and how you can tae advantage of it.

What is NFC on Smartphones?

Near Field Communication (NFC) is a wireless communication protocol that allows devices such as smartphones, smartwatches (or any device equipped with a NFC chip, really) to communicate with each other over short distances. Typically within a 4-inches range. The technology itself is fairly basic as it is based on RFID (Radio Frequency IDendification)… AKA what makes it possible for you to tap your credit card at the store, or your key fob at the office or the gym. More specifically,NFC is a direct evolution of RFID and offers advanced security compared too RFID. NFC has been around for over a decade and a variety of applications are using it! These include contactless payments, ticketing, and access control systems. 

NFC on Smartphone: How does it work?

NFC works by using electromagnetic induction to create a wireless link between two devices. When two NFC-enabled devices come into close proximity, they create a magnetic field that allows them to communicate with each other. Unlike other wireless communication protocols, such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, NFC does not require a pairing process or a complex setup process. Instead, the devices can establish a connection automatically and begin exchanging data.

The NFC protocol operates at a frequency of 13.56 MHz and supports data transfer rates of up to 424 kbps. This means that NFC can transfer small amounts of data quickly and reliably. This makes it ideal for applications such as contactless payments, where speed and accuracy are critical.

One of the key features of the NFC protocol is its ability to operate in three modes:

  • Reader/Writer: where the device acts as a reader or writer and can interact with passive NFC tags, like those in contactless payment systems.
  • Peer-To-Peer: where two NFC-enabled devices can exchange data with each other.
  • Card Emulation: where a device can act as a contactless smart card, thanks to NFC. This allows the user to use the device in a variety of applications, such as access control systems.

What is the use of NFC?

One of the most common applications of the NFC protocol is contactless payments. NFC is available on many smartphones today. This allows users to make payments simply by tapping their phones on a payment terminal. This has made payments more convenient and secure, as users no longer need to carry cash or cards with them. Other applications of the NFC protocol include ticketing, where devices can store and transmit ticket information, and access control to secure areas.

However, what NFC is no good for is transferring large amount of data. Google tried it with a service called Android Beam. The firm had to get back to the drawing board after realizing the limited capacities of the NFC protocol. Later, Google released Fast Share (shortly renamed Nearby Share) which used Bluetooth and WiFi . This allowed for faster transfer speeds and a better experience for the user.

Near-Field-Communication: which smartphones have it?

As mentioned, NFC chips are available in more and more smartphones every day. Really, the question today would be: which smartphones don’t have NFC?

Apple, for example, started implementing the chip on the iPhone 6. However, iOS13 would only offer any capabilities for it as of iOS13 (which the iPhone 6 is not compatible with)… That would be for payment-related applications. Digital ID and keys (for access-control in homes and secure areas) was only introduced recently, on iOS15. Same thing on Android! Google Pay was running on devices as of Android 4.4. However, the latest security features have only been available since version 10.

So basically, the probability is pretty high that any device released in the last 6 years is equipped with NFC.

NFC on Smartphone: is it safe to let it run on my smartphone?

First of all, NFC is active only when you use it and remains dormant the rest of the time. That means that it doesn’t drain any power from your device’s battery while not in use. Second, NFC doesn’t transmit any personal data at all, unless you authorize it through the use of a specific app. That decision to pursue is yours at all time. Third, the NFC chip itself doesn’t carry any personal data of yours. Its ”unique ID” is only tied to the phone itself. The receiving terminal will use it to recognize your phone as yours. That way, it will let your credit card or bank authorize the transaction as lawful. Additionally, any interaction via NFC requires the third-party to be within a 4 inches radius with the devices. SO, in other words, you would notice anything suspicious going on…

Wrapping it up.

In conclusion, the NFC protocol is a powerful and versatile wireless communication protocol. It has a wide range of applications, from contactless payments to access control. Its simplicity and ease of use make it ideal for use in a variety of consumer and industrial applications. It’s likely that we’ll see more and more applications of NFC technology in the years to come.