Technology Explained

How to Use NFC: 7 NFC Uses That’ll Impress Your Friends

James Frew Updated 22-05-2020

Near Field Communication, known as NFC, may sound like a dry, technical specification. In many ways, it is. However, the applications of NFC are worth considering.

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Android smartphones have had access to NFC for many years, while Apple’s iPhones previously had a feature-limited version. However, both platforms use the wireless technology for contactless payments, headphone pairing, and some level of automation.

If you want to make the most of NFC applications, we’ll show you how.

What Is NFC?

ways to use nfc

Near Field Communication (NFC) allows wireless communication between two electronic devices that are close to each other. Officially, NFC can support distances of up to 1.5 inches apart, but in practice, it can be up to 4 inches.

Generally, this comes in two forms; device to device communication or readable tags. While it is possible to make two devices interact via NFC, there are generally better methods of achieving this either through physical cables or other wireless technologies like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

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That said, contactless payments are facilitated via NFC. So, when you walk into your local store and pay with your phone using Google Pay or Apple Pay, the transaction is initiated via NFC.

The primary interaction method, then, is between a device like a smartphone and a readable NFC tag. These tags are small, cheap, and unpowered. This is made possible because the reading device, often your smartphone, can generate a Radio Frequency (RF) field that will power the tag.

NFC Compatibility

Google Pay press demo

Android devices have supported NFC since the early days of the smartphone, but Apple chose to withhold support on the iPhone. However, when the company unveiled Apple Pay, a contactless payment system enabled by NFC, they began including these wireless chips on iPhones.

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Before iOS 11, the company limited its use just to Apple Pay. However, iPhone models from the iPhone 7 and newer running iOS 13 and above now support contactless payments, the ability to read NFC tags, and the capability to write them, too.

This brings both mobile platforms into step with one another, allowing you to use NFC on your Android smartphone or iPhone. However, the specifications of Android phones vary considerably, so NFC support isn’t guaranteed. This is especially true of the affordable end of the market, where other features are given priority.

What You’ll Need

Timeskey NFC Stickers (10 Pack) Timeskey NFC Stickers (10 Pack) Buy Now On Amazon $9.39

If you own an NFC-compatible smartphone, then you’ll need to purchase some NFC tags before you get going. There are many types of NFC tags available, ranging from the affordable through to expensive industrial use varieties.

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To make the most of the following NFC applications, you’ll want to invest in a set of rewritable NFC tags. Although there is a wide range of available tags, the Timeskey NFC Stickers (10 Pack) are great value, can be rewritten, and are easy to place wherever you need them.

You’ll also need to download an NFC tag writer app to your smartphone. NFC-enabled iPhones can read tags without additional software, but your experience may vary on Android.

There are many apps on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store that can write tags, one of the best options is the NFC TagWriter by NXP. The app is available for both mobile platforms and is easy to use.

Download: NFC TagWriter by NXP for Android | iOS (Free)

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The Best Ways to Use NFC

Once you’ve got a compatible smartphone, rewritable NFC tags, and downloaded a tag writing app, you can then begin to make the most of what NFC can offer. As the tags can be rewritten, you can experiment with your own automated setup. That said, there are plenty of NFC uses that you can get started with right away.

1. Instantly Connect to a Wi-Fi Network

Wi-Fi passwords are lengthy and complicated. This makes connecting to your network a pain. If you’d rather replace that cumbersome process with a single tap, you can write your Wi-Fi password to an NFC tag. Android and iOS support this feature, so a tap on the tag will pre-populate Wi-Fi connection details and get you online without any fuss.

If you like this idea, but would rather have something a bit more formal, consider a product like the Wifi Porter. The device is a well-designed, easy-to-use NFC device that does the same thing. Still not sure? Take a look at our review of the Wifi Porter Wifi Porter: The Easy Way to Get Guests Connected The Wifi Porter is a deceptively simple, well engineered, NFC-enabled device that'll have you connected to a Wi-Fi network in just a single tap. Read More before investing.

2. Get Yourself Out of Bed

Waking up in the morning can be a considerable challenge. For some people, even the most relentless alarm clock doesn’t help. In that case, consider using an NFC tag to motivate you out of bed instead. Apps like Sleep As Android integrate alarms with NFC tags, through the use of in-app captchas.

These aim to verify that you have acted by making you interact with a physical item. Use the app to write an NFC-based captcha, then the only way to disable the alarm is to venture out of bed, find the NFC sticker, and tap your phone against it.

3. Launch a Website

There might be times when you want to direct someone to a specific website. This can be a bit tricky, especially if it’s not a simple website address. Instead of having them type out a long random URL, you can write the URL to an NFC tag. When tapped, it loads the user’s mobile browser and directs them straight to the site you wanted.

4. Automatically Enter Driving Mode

iPhone users know that when they get into the vehicle and connect to their in-car entertainment system, their phone will automatically enter Driving Mode. This silences notifications and optimizes your setup for your journey. Although some Android smartphones can do this, the majority don’t.

If you’d prefer to automate this process, you can write the tasks to an NFC tag. When placed inside the car, a tap of your phone can perform actions like enable Do Not Disturb, turn on or off data, and open your navigation app.

Some NFC tag writing apps, like Trigger on Android, let you set up a toggle switch to reverse the actions. So, the first tap will enable Driving Mode, while a second can disable it and return your phone to normal operations.

5. Make Payments

As we mentioned earlier, NFC enables contactless payments when using services like Google Pay or Apple Pay. In many places around the world, contactless payments have become commonplace. Indeed, in many food and convenience stores in the US, contactless is the preferred method of payment.

Both Apple Pay and Google Pay allow you to keep track of your spending, analyze your habits, and store coupons. Additionally, opting for NFC payments means you no longer need to carry other payment methods alongside your phone.

6. Automate Common Phone Tasks

Android and iOS now have methods of automating regular tasks, but they don’t always offer the kind of flexibility you’re after. Using NFC, you can set up shortcuts for actions like calling a specific friend or family member, opening your camera, or running your favorite streaming service as you leave the house.

If you want a more efficient way to automate these shortcuts, consider investing in a set of DIMPLE Smart Buttons. These physical buttons stick to the rear of your smartphone near the NFC chip. When pressed, they activate a custom NFC task, which you can set via the DIMPLE app.

7. Share Media

If you create videos for YouTube, stream on Twitch, or release music on Spotify, one of the biggest challenges is getting people to see your content in the first place. You can overcome this hurdle with NFC.

It’s possible to embed a link to your work on the NFC tag and then strategically stick it somewhere that’ll get people interested. Just be sure to explain what is on the tag, as people may be wary of the notable NFC security issues 5 NFC Security Issues to Consider Before Your Next Contactless Payment NFC contactless payments don't provide a cast iron guarantee of safety. Just like any financial transaction, there are weaknesses and loopholes. Consider these five NFC security issues before you make another contactless payment. Read More .

The Best Uses for NFC

NFC chips have changed the way we interact with the world around us. These cheap electronic components have enabled contactless payment systems like Google Pay and Apple Pay, made some physical tickets redundant, and made home automation an affordable reality.

However, although NFC is undoubtedly useful, like all technology, it is vulnerable to security issues, too. Before you delve into the wireless technology, you might want to read up on how a drive-by NFC hack works How Does a Drive-By NFC Hack Work? What is NFC, why is it on your phone, and does it present a security risk? Here's everything you need to know. Read More .

Related topics: Android Tips, Contactless Payment, iPhone Tips, Mobile Automation, Mobile Payment, NFC.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Godel
    June 2, 2020 at 9:16 pm

    The Android NFC writer app that you recommend doesn't get great reviews compared to some others in the app store.

    • James Frew
      June 3, 2020 at 6:17 am

      Personally, I've not had any issues with it on either platform, although I understand it looks offputting. I thought it'd be preferable to include a cross-platform option. As you mentioned, there are many options out there, though.

  2. Dexter
    May 24, 2020 at 8:04 am

    My dudes, dimple website and the product itself are pretty much dead. A shame but that step is misleading at this point.

  3. ghoneim
    January 3, 2019 at 4:33 am

    if i inserted a multiple information to the tap and i want to share my wifi password with another device , how it know which information i want to share with that device maybe i want to share my company url or my phone number .

    • James Frew
      January 3, 2019 at 6:15 am

      NFC tags are single function, so they can be written to share your Wi-Fi code and business information, or just the Wi-Fi code, but they aren't able to selectively share information. You'd need multiple tags if you wanted to do that.

  4. Vik
    December 6, 2018 at 8:28 am

    I use NFC to automatically turn on my wireless charger (through a smart plug), as soon as I place my phone on top of it.

    You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UI4oX0kzLzA

    Also it will automatically turn off, if the phone is beeing removed or is fully charged.
    The idea behind it is to conserve the battery of the phone a little bit longer,
    by not letting it charge the whole night!

    • James Frew
      December 11, 2018 at 7:56 am

      Very nice idea and use of a smart plug. I hadn't considered something like that before!

  5. Ash
    July 16, 2018 at 6:01 am

    Can you set a tag or ring to work with contactless payments. Theres no nfc smartwatches I like so I wanted to try and put something on the strap? So I can leave phone in the car.

    • James Frew
      July 16, 2018 at 8:53 am

      Most NFC contactless payments are done either through smartphones or watches. Some banks have released their own NFC payment keyrings but it'd depend who you bank with. Kerv is an NFC payment ring, but I don't know much about it so can't vouch for it.

  6. Susann Dye
    August 17, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    Just tried to set up N.F.C. between my Samsung Note 5 and Brother Printer, it appears it doesn't work without an internet connection that has Wifi. It is no good to me then. I would like to print from my phone directly to my printer with out a network and with out WiFi.

    • PakkyT
      January 23, 2018 at 3:31 am

      You can't print directly with NFC. The point of NFC enabled devices (headphone, speakers, printers, etc.) is simply to quick connect your photo to the device by tapping your phone to the device rather than going through the whole "coupling" routine of connecting, setting settings, logging in, or whatever else normally needs to get done to connect your phone to something. The actual connection is always though something else (Wi-Fi or Bluetooth typically).

  7. Alejandro Lengua
    April 23, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    In my family we usually have problems remembering who certain clothes belong to
    so I was thinking of using NFC tags to identify our clothes.

    Having NFC tags embedded in socks would also help to find matching pairs.

    • James Frew
      April 24, 2017 at 8:23 am

      Nice idea - if you get it to work then let us know!

  8. Rob
    February 19, 2017 at 9:29 am

    press on the Wi-Fi network in “Settings” in Android 5.0.1 and above, to write the Wi-Fi network information to an NFC tag??

    I have a POP 4s with Android 6.0 but not the NFC write option as described above...

    • James Frew
      April 24, 2017 at 8:23 am

      As with most things Android it can vary per device as manufacturers choose whether to modify the OS or not. I had a quick look at the Pop 4S and it looks as though its running a modified version of Android. Although you may not have access to the in-built NFC tagging then the other app-based solutions should still work for you.

    • shappy
      May 8, 2017 at 1:23 pm

      Make sure NFC is turned on on your device.

      • James Frew
        May 8, 2017 at 2:26 pm

        Good shout. You can check usually in your settings under "Wireless & networks" and then heading to the "More" section.

  9. Mike K
    January 5, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    I use NFC to play certain playlists. The end product looks like a CD cover booklet. I use InDesign to create a 5x5 inch booklet with a list of songs as they are in the playlist and then a grid of all the albums. I place a cheap NFC tag inside the cover and all it a takes to switch playlists is a tap of the phone. I really wish I had a easier way to automate the creation of the booklets because it takes a ton of time to make them but it's a labor of love. This makes music physical medium again but still keeps it digital too.

    One big drawback is the music has to be on my phone. But if I could figure out a way to trigger the music in iTunes on my computer through the NFC on my phone that would be best.

  10. Jeremy
    October 27, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    Great article, thank! As of Oct 2016, is there any word on Apple and iPhone/iOS Devices being able to use NFC?
    Cheers

    • James Frew
      October 27, 2016 at 10:14 pm

      No movement from Apple with their position on NFC. If anything, they have only clarified they have no plans to open NFC up on iOS. During a disagreement with Australian banks during the Summer of 2016, they stated that opening NFC would "be a security risk".

  11. PakkyT
    July 15, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    I keep a tag with my work badge that when I touch my phone will silence the phone for 55 minutes then restore volumes to normal. Why 55 minutes instead of an hour for meetings? Because after 55 minutes if the meeting isn't wrapping up, I would welcome a phone call to allow me to excuse myself. :)

    There are a number of things I do with Tasker (a great App, although steep learning curve) automatically setting stuff based on my location (which cell towers are nearby). But if I didn't use Tasker I would do with NFC tags. For example a tag on my work desk to set volumes and my ring tone to more "work appropriate" volumes and content. Tapping it again at the end of the day would restore more obnoxious levels and content.

    I have a tag on my (WiFi only) iPad cover that starts my phone's "hotspot" and connects to the phone to get internet access when not near other WiFi. A second tap shuts down the phone's hotspot.

    A hidden tag on your work desk for that coworker you really don't want to talk to comes by or the one you like but after 10 minutes you wish they would wrap it up. Set up the tag to start a timer, say 40 seconds (so it isn't obvious this happens right after you move the phone to the tag), then either have your ringer go off ("oh, I have to take this") or have your phone send a text to a coworker to call you or come over to ask you if you can pop into a meeting.

    • James Frew
      July 17, 2016 at 10:03 pm

      Those are some great ideas, thanks for sharing them. I really like the iPad tag for the hotspot because I have a Wi-Fi only iPad too, so it might turn out really useful.

      Tasker is great but I agree its a steep learning curve, there is an easier and more starter friendly alternative though called Trigger.

      https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jwsoft.nfcactionlauncher

      • PakkyT
        July 17, 2016 at 10:16 pm

        I do use Trigger already. Great program. But coupled with Tasker the pair make a very powerful combination. One of the features of Trigger is that you can trigger Tasker tasks. Where this comes in handy are A) Tasker can do a lot of things Trigger can not, but you can still use Trigger to read the tag then run the Tasker task to do those other things. And B) NFC tags only hold so much and after a few things added to the tag, it can fill up limited you to just a handful of operations on a single tag. With Trigger being used to run a Tasker task you now have virtually unlimited NFC tag storage, so to speak.

        As an example, the NFC tag in my car I read with Trigger where Trigger does some things and runs Tasker tasks to do the rest. So one swipe of the tag and I turn off Wifi, Turn on Blue Tooth, Turn on GPS, max out my volumes, pick a particularly LOUD ringtone, turns on Waze (mapping application), & shows a pop up to show I am now in "car mode". A second scan of the same tag reverses everything (normal volumes, normal ringtone, Bluetooth and GPS off, shut down Waze). Unfortunately Trigger can not do all that and certainly not from a single NFC tag. So Trigger can call on Tasker to help out.

        • James Frew
          July 19, 2016 at 11:18 am

          Great setup - although I have a bias since I do the same too!

    • Rob
      February 19, 2017 at 9:33 am

      impossible to do such things secretly.... the display must be on and a sound is played when NFC tag is nearby. Furthermore, the collegue must be using the same app....

      • PakkyT
        February 19, 2017 at 8:51 pm

        Not impossible at all. People unlock and check their phones all the time when talking with other people, especially with many people not wearing wrist watches as much anymore. If you are sitting at your desk and someone is talking to you, it is completely natural to pick up. unlock the phone, and check the time then put it back down again (on the tag).

        And your colleague doesn't need a special app to receive a SMS Text or email which either can very easily have your phone send out by triggering off a tag.

    • Jeremy D Green
      August 2, 2018 at 7:10 pm

      The last idea is genius!

  12. Anonymous
    April 18, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    Note that you cannot do this on a iPhone because Apple limits what you do with the NFC chip - only for Apple Pay

    • James Frew
      April 19, 2016 at 6:19 am

      Hopefully we will see Apple opening up their NFC with the next iPhone. I did mention at the start of the article that the NFC doesn't operate on iOS.

  13. Anonymous
    April 18, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    I have NFC pads mounted at my front door and in the entrances to my kitchen and bathroom that switch my phone's audio output to the most appropriate bluetooth output.

    • James Frew
      April 18, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      That's a great use for it. Do you use that with multiple devices too? Are they both Bluetooth speakers?

      • Anonymous
        April 18, 2016 at 10:02 pm

        I have Bluetooth receivers all over my place and headphones I wear when I leave the house. I don't like to carry my phone everywhere I go, so between that and carefully customized alert sounds and scripts, I can tell who is sending me messages and or if they're terribly important.

        Ideally, I wish I could have audio and video follow me as I move through my home, but the tech for that isn't quite affordable yet.

        • James Frew
          April 19, 2016 at 6:21 am

          That's the ideal isn't it. Maybe one day NFC clothing will help with that. In the meantime though have you considered using a wireless speaker system like Sonos? Or do you not use streaming services?

        • Anonymous
          April 19, 2016 at 8:16 am

          Streaming music services are inadequate for my interests and the speakers I'm using are probably nicer anyway. The most likely option for my entertainment needs us to send output from my local file server through Kodi or Plex. I have repurposed old tablets to manage that.

        • James Frew
          April 19, 2016 at 10:44 am

          Plex is easily my favorite for streaming local video, but I have found that using Google Play Music I can upload my local library and then can stream it and its even free which is a bonus. Have you tried that?

        • Anonymous
          April 19, 2016 at 12:49 pm

          I have both Google Play and Amazon Prime Music as full as I can get them, but why bother with that when I can get Kodi to play full-quality FLACs or 24/192kHz SACD rips? Plex is also kind of hopeless for my music (a lot of things don't understand classical music; the metadata needs are very different) so having something like Kodi that just presents my existing directory structures on my file server works better than anything else.
          Streaming isn't really relevant. Everything I do at home is direct-play from a file server. Plex just exposes content for friends and/or my use when I'm traveling.

          Also, this has nothing to do with NFC.