NFC, which stands for ‘near field communications’, is a new type of wireless connectivity that is becoming increasingly common in the modern smartphone market. Though you may not realise it, your handset may have an NFC chip on board, but what does this technology do and what are the best NFC uses?
NFC Contactless Payments
One of the main reasons that NFC exists is to turn your mobile phone into a digital wallet that can be used to make contactless payments at compatible kiosks in retail outlets across the country.
It operates in a similar role to the Oyster Card system in London’s transport networks; you simply tap your phone against a reader on the till and the necessary money is taken from your account once you’ve entered your unique PIN.
You can combine multiple cards in your NFC account and then make small payments wherever you go. There is a cap on how much you can spend in one transaction, but it’s easy enough to accommodate a few bits and pieces from the local shop.
NFC File Sharing
NFC is not just about prying digital pennies from a virtual wallet; the best NFC uses can also be used to let you transfer anything from one compatible phone to another.
One of the main ways to achieve this is via Android Beam, which is a service specifically set up to allow two near field communications enabled Android handsets to share information.
All you need to do is tap your phones together and you can transfer over a file at high speed, or even share a web link or YouTube video without going through the hassle of copying and pasting it into a text message or e-mail to your mate.
Google has worked hard to make Android Beam as broadly functional as possible, so unlike other forms of connectivity such as Bluetooth, you can even share in-app information, such as map directions. The LG Nexus 4 is a great example of a smartphone that’s
You will find NFC on other smartphones, such as those running the Windows Phone 8 platform, although at the moment it is not a feature of Apple’s iOS software, so iPhone-based interactions are out of the question.
Sony Xperia Smart Tags
Sony has taken its own route with NFC, turning it into a kind of meta phone management tool that lets you automatically alter the settings on your phone according to which of its NFC Smart Tags you use.
You can purchase these standalone smart tags and place them at home, at work, in your car or even beside your bed and then programme your phone to change its profile or launch apps depending on which tags you tap it against. For example, if you have a tag in your car you can use it to automatically activate your handset’s GPS capabilities, or ready the Bluetooth service so that you can take hands-free calls while you are on the road.
Meanwhile, NFC smart tags at home can tell your phone to turn on Wi-Fi so that you don’t eat into your data allowance when there is a known hotspot nearby.
Playing Music Loud!
As the last of our best NFC uses, you can use your smartphone to connect to an array of devices. Sony have just launched a portable wireless speaker which when tapped with an NFC wielding smartphone, will pump out the tracks from your smartphone for everyone to hear. You can listen to the effectiveness of NFC for yourself on our Sony Xperia Z video review.
These examples demo advanced functionality that Near Field Communications makes possible. It’s just a case of actually taking advantage of it yourself to find the best NFC uses.