Near-field communication (NFC) is a protocol found on many mobile devices. NFC is what enables two devices to communicate wirelessly when they’re close together. NFC is actually a subset of something called RFID (radio-frequency identification), a technology that allows us to identify things through radio waves. RFID is nothing new—it’s been used for decades for things like scanning items in grocery stores and luggage on baggage claims, and tagging cattle.
NFC, which was introduced in the early 2000s, uses a specific RFID frequency (13.56MHz, to be exact) for close-range communications. To date, one of the more common uses for NFC is identification cards to gain access to places like office buildings and private garages. But increasingly, NFC is being used to power something called contactless payments.
Do you have NFC?
NFC is available on more or less every high-end phone out there, but it’s not available on all mid-range and entry-level handsets. One way to check if your phone has NFC is to look for NFC printing, usually found somewhere in the back of the device. On certain Samsung phones, you’ll see “Near Field Communication” printed on the battery pack. However, this only applies to older phones, as the majority of newer models don’t have a removable back.
Or, you can skip all of the hardware fiddling and just check your phone’s Settings menu:
- On your Android device, tap on “Settings.”
- Select “Connected devices.”
- Select “Connection preferences.”
- You should see “NFC”
Depending on your device, these two options could be located in a different folder. If you can’t find them, open up the settings menu, tap the search icon on top, and type in “NFC”. If your phone has it, the NFC option will show up.
How NFC Works for Printing
The initiating NFC device (such as a smartphone) sends a request for a connection or a tag. In turn, the receiving device (such as a printer) sends an NFC tag. After the two devices authenticate in this way, they exchange data (such as a smartphone sending a document to the printer for printing). These actions are completed with no drivers required.
Using NFC tags
Apart from sharing content with other NFC-capable devices, you can also use NFC to configure your phone’s or tablet’s settings with just a tap. You can do this by tapping an NFC-capable device against a programmed NFC tag
An NFC tag is an unpowered NFC chip, small enough to be embedded in items such as posters, movie passes, business cards, medication bottles, stickers, wristbands, key fobs, pens, hang tags, and more. The microchip can store small chunks of data, which can be read by an NFC-capable device. Different NFC tags have different memory capacities.
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