Your smartphone is packed with all sorts of wireless technology. You might have your regular GSM radio for voice calls and text messages. You might have 3G or even 4G LTE to handle your high-speed wireless data. And then there’s Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi, and maybe an FM radio. A growing number of Android smartphones, like the Google Nexus 4, also come equipped with something called NFC.
Standing for Near Field Communication, NFC is a technology that lets you transmit data by simply tapping the back of your phone onto a compatible NFC tag or tag reader. It’s not quite mainstream just yet, but NFC is quickly growing and there are a number of free NFC Android apps that take advantage of this wireless tech. And the kinds of functions they can perform is incredibly varied, demonstrating just how versatile NFC already is and how much more versatile it may become in the very near future.
WifiTap WiFi NFC
You’ve likely had the all too familiar experience of going to a friend’s house, an office or a coffee shop, only to be faced with typing in an incredibly long password to gain access to the Wi-Fi network. You also have do the usual hunt through the Wi-Fi settings page to find the right SSID in the first place. This app completely simplifies the process, because an NFC tag can be placed at the location. When you tap your phone on the tag, it will automatically add the Wi-Fi network to your known list and then your phone will connect automatically. The location will need to have an NFC tag written with the network credentials, but the hope is as the tech becomes more popular, more people will use it and offer it.
Did you take an awesome picture with your phone and now you want to share it with your friends? While you could use Internet-based services like Dropbox or even e-mail to send those photos, that may not necessarily be the best solution. Sending the file locally over Bluetooth can be more convenient, except the whole pairing process can be tedious. Like other NFC Android apps, Blue NFC also aims to simplify that process. The NFC tap is used as a “handshake” to pair the two devices and then the Bluetooth protocol is used to actually transfer the file. The app does everything automatically, including enabling Bluetooth, establishing the connection, and disabling Bluetooth upon completion.
NFC Tag Writer & Reader
Of course, none of this NFC stuff would work if we didn’t have the tags around to use them. This app from Connecthings solves that problem in two ways: it’s both an NFC tag writer and an NFC tag reader. This way, you can create your own NFC tags for storing URLs, SMS, phone numbers, or whatever else. Naturally, the NFC tags can also be rewritten with new data as you see fit. There’s a pre-defined catalog of possible NFC contents that’s easily navigated through the intuitive user interface.
NFC Task Launcher
Many NFC tags effectively work the same way as QR codes, but you’ll want to use NFC Android apps like NFC Task Launcher from Tagstand if you want to do more than that. As its name clearly implies, NFC Task Launcher lets you use NFC tags to launch different tasks on your Android smartphone. A common use, for example, is to place an NFC tag outside of the company conference room. Everyone taps the tag on their way in and this might turn the phone to silent, disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and send all calls to voicemail. Businesses can even set the NFC tag to automatically check people in via Foursquare to their venue!
NFC by MOO
In an increasingly digital age, business cards may feel like a relic from the past. Moo cards is looking to revitalize the format by releasing a series of business cards with built-in NFC tags. Then, by using this app, the tags can be written with custom information like a URL, phone number, Google Maps location, social network info, contact card, or whatever else. In this way, the NFC tag becomes the “third side” of the business card.
Image credit: LGEPR / Flickr