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How To Enable Smartphone To Read NFC Tags?

This article provides a brief introduction to NFC and related know-how. By the time you thoroughly read this article, you’ll have a general knowledge of the usage and constraints of NFC protocol.

Enable Smartphone To Read NFC Tags

A Brief Introduction To NFC

How to enable smartphone to read NFC? NFC stands for Near Field Communication. It is a two-way communication protocol used to establish a connection between devices. E.g., NFC can connect two smartphones or between a phone and a smartwatch. 

The NFC protocol offers a low-speed connection between two electronic devices at short-range (usually 4 cm or 1.5 inches & less).

Like any other ‘Proximity Card’ tech, NFC is also based on inductive coupling between signal receivers of two NFC chips. 

The NFC establishes a connection through a simple setup and bootstraps more complex and advanced wireless connections. You don’t need to power both NFC-enabled devices to share data.

Providing a power source to only one NFC device is sufficient. It can activate the other NFC tag through inductive coupling.

The first patent for NFC was granted in 1983 to Charles Walton. In 1997, the first application of NFC tech was in Star Wars character toys ( for Hasbro).

And in 2004, Nokia launched the NFC-enabled Nokia 5140 phone, followed by Samsung in 2010 and iOS in 2014.

Applications Of NFC Technology

NFC offers a two-way communication channel between two endpoints. It doesn’t require the cumbersome process of finding and pairing devices (like Bluetooth).

Based on the above points, NFC has a wide range of applications. Below are some examples of the applications of NFC tech.

  • NFC devices can act as a carrier for electronic identification (identity certification and keycards.)
  • Contactless payments (CTLS NFC or NFC CTLS)- You can pay or receive payments through NFC. E.g., an increase in the number of contactless payments/transactions during the Covid-19 pandemic. It replaced Cash, and Credit/Debit Card swipes with NFC smartphones and a payment terminal.
  • Payment methods such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay support NFC payments.
  • NFC can be used to share small files. It can also bootstrap advanced & fast wireless communication channels that allow data transfer of large files.
  • NFC can also carry your electronic ticket and boarding passes.
  • Product Description- In stores, each product is equipped with NFC tags and programmed to share the Product Description with customers holding NFC tag readers.
  • Sports- Adidas Telstar 18 soccer ball is equipped with an NFC tag. Players can interact with the ball with a smartphone (having an NFC tag reader)

How Does NFC Works?

NFC is a subset or evolution of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). It uses short-range radio waves to identify and share data through a secure two-way communication channel (two devices are nearby).

Every NFC-enabled device has an NFC chip (attached to an antenna) called an NFC tag. Below is a picture of an NFC tag showing a schematic diagram and an actual NFC tag/chip.

Left: A schematic diagram of an NFC Tag. Right: An actual NFC Tag

An NFC tag is a small, powerless chip that is small enough to embed into stickers, movie tickets, product labels, etc.

NFC functionalities are available in almost every electronic device, such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, smart TVs, payment terminals, Bluetooth devices, etc. 

NFC tags have little to no effect on battery life if it’s passively activated. So NFC tags consume a negligible amount of power source.

And the best thing about NFC tags is that you don’t need to activate both tags to establish a link (like Bluetooth pairing). Through inductive coupling, your smartphone can passively activate the other tag and establish a data transfer channel.

Suppose you want the product description in a supermarket or large store and check out the store’s inventory.

You take out your smartphone, launch the NFC tag reader app, and place it close to the product of your choice. Your smartphone NFC tag produces a magnetic field by passing current into the NFC coil.

Place your smartphone close to the other NFC tag, and it passively generates an electric current through inductive coupling.

Then a communication channel will establish after the initial handshake, and the stored product description will be transmitted (in NFC data exchange format) to your smartphone.

How To Enable NFC On Android Smartphone And Read NFC Tags?

  • Launch the Settings app on your Android phone.
  • Navigate to Connected Devices-> Connection Preferences.
  • In the preference list, check whether the NFC option is displayed.
  • If you find the NFC option, your Android device has NFC support.
  • Enable NFC. Tap the toggle button beside the option. It will turn Blue/Green when enabled.
Go to Settings-> Connections and enable the NFC feature on your Android.
  • If your Android has an in-built NFC tag reader, you may see the transmitted data when you place your Android device close to an NFC tag.
  • But if your Android doesn’t have an NFC tag reader pre-installed, you can download a third-party Reader app from the Google Play Store.
  • After you’re done with the download & installation of the reader app, launch the app and scan the opposite NFC tag.

Note: Android Beam (used in tandem with NFC capabilities) has been replaced with the Nearby Share feature.

This feature is similar to Apple’s AirDrop[ feature. You can wirelessly transmit or share data with devices nearby. 

How To Enable NFC ON iOS Devices And Read NFC Tags?

  • Launch the Settings app of your iOS device (here, it is iPhone.)
  • Nagivate to General-> NFC.
Navigate to Settings-> General-> NFC. Tap the toggle button to enable NFC capability.
  • Enable NFC on your iPhone. Tap on the toggle button. It will turn green when the NFC is enabled.
  • Return to the main screen of the Settings app.
  • Now you need to add NFC Tag Reader to the Control Center. Doing so will allow you quick access to the Tag Reader from the Control Center (swipe down from the top-right corner of the screen.)
  • Navigate to Control Center. Add the NFC Tag Reader to the list of Included Controls.
Add the NFC Tag Reader to the Control Center of your iPhone.
  • Close the Settings app and jump to the Home Screen
  • Open the Control Center.
  • Tap on the NFC Tag Reader icon, and bring your iPhone close to the opposite NFC tag. The data stored in the tag will be transmitted to your iPhone.
Activate NFC Tag Reader from the Control Center.

Conclusion

NFC ( Near Field Communication) is an evolutionary technology of the RFID tech. You can also say that NFC is a mixture of RFID & Bluetooth with a shorter transmission range ( less than 4 cm or 1.5 inches).

NFC is fast, secure, and efficient for small data transmissions such as payments, carrying identity, keycards, boarding pass, etc.

To enjoy the service of NFC tags, you need to determine if your smartphone (Android or iOS) supports NFC.

The models produced in 2015 and later are equipped with NFC tags for those with iPhones. On the other hand, some Android manufacturers embed their smartphones with NFC hardware while others don’t.

To check whether your Android has an NFC option, open the Settings app and navigate to Connected Devices(Network & Sharing)->Connection Preferences.

If you see the NFC option listed on the screen, your Android smartphone supports NFC.

FAQs

Can A Smartphone Read NFC?

Only a smartphone that supports NFC (equipped with an NFC circuit) can read NFC tags. Apple has fitted iPhones ( 2015 or later) with NFC tags. So if you own a recent iPhone, it will have NFC hardware. On Android, go to Settings-> Connected Devices/Network and Sharing and check if the NFC option is on the list.

How Do I Enable My NFC On My Phone?

On iPhones, launch the Settings app. Navigate to General-> NFC. Tap on the toggle button to enable the NFC (disable is gray color & enable is green color). On Androids, go to Settings-> Connected Devices( or Network and Sharing_)-> Connection Preferences. Check if the NFC option is available. If it’s in the list, enable it by tapping the toggle button.

What Is An NFC Tag & NFC Tag Reader?

NFC Tag is a powerless chip (small integrated circuit with a copper coil and storage), small enough to embed into stickers. Using NFC Tags, two electronic devices can establish a low-speed two-way communication channel and transmit data. The NFC works at a short-range (usually 4cm or less). An NFC tag reader is required to read the data stored in an NFC tag reader.

Should NFC Be ON Or OFF?

Depending on how frequently you use NFC-related services, you can choose to either disable it or keep it left turned On. Also, for NFC application apps like Apple Pay and Google Pay, you don’t need to turn On the NFC every time you make payments explicitly. Just allow or grant permissions to these apps to use the NFC option.