Tech Spec: Near Field Communication

When people head over to their phone store, many of them have this feature listed, but what is it? Is Near Field Communication (NFC) something to consider when upgrading smartphones?

Okay, the first item that came to my mind when I thought of describing NFC is Nintendo’s Gameboy link cable. Back in the day, that cable allowed for Gameboys to communicate with each other, sending and receiving information. Now imagine that same setup, but wireless and with higher functionality; that is NFC.

NFC is a wireless interaction system in phones that allow for the sharing of information between other NFC-enabled items (this could be a smartphone, tablet or a sticker with an NFC chip embedded inside it). Sure it can transfer data, but what are some of NFC’s uses?

Google Wallet takes wireless capability to another level. Photo by Courtland Jeffrey.

NFC is used as a way to share files from phones or to collect information from other NFC-equipped items (a sticker can be programmed to tell the phone to turn on/off settings); another highlight of NFC is that it could replace your credit cards as payment. Services like Google Wallet (shown right) allow users to simply hold their smartphone up at stores to make their purchases.

When purchasing a smartphone, my recommendation is to find a phone that has it built-in. If you are planning to make your phone last for some time (which is the majority of people), then get it.

The only warning with this feature is to have NFC turned off when you are not using it. This is because it is still new and there have been ways for people to hack the software (all of the current issues have been fixed, to my knowledge, but it just shows the imperfection of the feature). While this wireless feature is useless in your phone unless everyone else accepts it, it seems as though it is becoming popular and it is coming standard for some manufacturers.

Choose your next phone wisely, compare battery life, quality of products and keep NFC in the mix as well, but it is not make-or-break. You probably won’t use that feature (if it catches on) for another year or so; but if you know someone else who already has NFC in their smartphone, you can have some fun passing photos or files, just by holding each other’s phones close.

 

If you have any opinions on NFC or have any questions, message me on Twitter @Court_Jeffrey or via email at cejeffre@asu.edu. Enjoy!