Has someone handed you a business card recently? What did you do with it? Put it in your wallet? Cram it into your desk drawer? Recently I’ve been handed a lot of business cards, and it got me thinking: is there a better way to share information? I think I found the solution, an NFC tag.
Do you use a mobile payment service like Apple Pay or Google Pay when checking out at a store? Then you have used NFC (Near-Field Communication). This is the technology that sends your payment information wirelessly and securely to the payment terminal. But, NFC doesn’t stop at just mobile payments! You may encounter it as a way to unlock your hotel room. It’s also built into Apple’s latest product, AirTag, as a way to tap your phone on the puck to be taken to Apple’s website and find the owner. But, you can also get your own NFC chip and program it to whatever you want.
So, this is an NFC tag. You can get a pack of 30 of them for about $7 from Amazon. Essentially it’s a programmable button that opens the door to a wide range of possibilities.
Here’s how it works. You program the tag with an action or information. Then, someone can trigger that action by tapping their supported device on the tag. Now, let’s take a deeper look into how to program and use these NFC tags.
To program these tags, I will install NFC Tools, a free, simple-to-use app for programming NFC tags.
For my first example, I’m going to link this tag to AppleGuideWeb.com. To get started, I’m going to choose “Write” then “Add a record.” Now I’m going to tap “URL/URI,” enter www.appleguideweb.com in the text box, and tap “OK.” Now we have one record ready to be programmed to the tag. So, I’m going to select “write” and tap my phone on the NFC tag, and it should write. If you run into an error, try it again.
So, let’s test it. I’m going to close everything and head back to the home screen. When I tap my phone on the NFC tag, I get a banner notification that I can tap on to go to AppleGuideWeb.com.
Now let’s go back to the “Add a record” menu. As you can see, you can link just about anything. Add your social media profiles, address, start an email, make a phone call or FaceTime call, add your WIFI network information, and more.
With these options, think of all the use cases. Businesses can get NFC tags built into their business cards, which can link a user to a business social media page, phone number, address, or a webpage with all of this information. Or have a moviegoer tap on a poster to watch the trailer. Stick one on your home router and link it with your WIFI password. Then, when visitors come, they can tap on the tag to connect to your internet without manually entering a password.
However, not all of the options listed actually work. For instance, I haven’t been able to get the SMS, contacts, or WIFI network configuration to work on my iPhone. It appears the iPhone only supports links, while Android is more likely to support different types of information. So, your mileage may vary.
That brings us to our next question, which mobile devices support reading from an NFC tag? Well, users of an iPhone XR or newer should have no problem reading an NFC tag. However, iPhone 7, 8, and X will need to manually scan the NFC tag by adding the NFC Tag reader to the control center. On Android, it’s a bit more complicated. I have a website linked below that lists every Android phone that supports reading from NFC tags. They also recommend downloading the “Do I Have NFC,” a free app on the Google Play Store, which will tell you if you have NFC built into your device. However, you shouldn’t have any issues with any modern flagship smartphone.
Now you could make the argument there are more efficient ways of sending information. Possibly AirDrop? Well, not really, it only works with direct communication between two Apple devices and requires you to accept AirDrops from anyone. Text messaging is also an inadequate solution since it also requires direct communication between two phones.
Like QR codes, NFC tags present an easy, convenient, and independent way to send information without needing someone on the other side.
More on NFC:
- ︎iGeek Blog: How to use NFC tag reader in iOS 14
- BeeBom: How to Check NFC Support on Your Android Smartphone
- Android Authority: What is NFC and how does it work
- Digital Trends: What is NFC? Here’s everything you need to know
- TechRadar: What is NFC? Everything you need to know