What is NFC and what’s it for?

Spoiler alert: it’s Near Field Communication.

26 May 2021

NFC has been available on smartphones for a while now. You might have noticed it in your settings, and there’s a good chance your phone could be using it right now! But do you know exactly what NFC is, and what you can use it for? Let us reveal all…

What is NFC?

NFC stands for Near Field Communication. It’s a type of wireless connection that sends data a short distance between devices. It works best at around 10 centimetres, and this is seen as a major security benefit. After all, you’d be sure to notice a potential hacker acting suspiciously only a few centimetres from your phone. It’s been on smartphones since Sony and BlackBerry added it to their handsets way back in 2011.

What can NFC be used for?

NFC lets your share data between NFC-equipped devices, so you can use it to easily pair your phone with earphones, wireless speakers and other accessories.

NFC also makes it simple to share videos, photos and other details. Just touch two compatible phones together, select the 'tap to share with other nearby devices' feature, and your chosen content will be transferred instantly.

Another really handy thing you can use NFC for is storing paperless tickets on your smartphone.When you buy your travel, concert or festival tickets, make sure you download them onto your phone. Then when you need to use them, load them up and they're ready to be scanned.

But the thing that NFC is most famous for? Making secure and easy payments with your smartphone…

Using NFC to pay with your iPhone

If you’re an iPhone owner,  you can use Apple Pay in places that accept contactless payments. It uses NFC between your iPhone and the payment reader.

To set up Apple Pay on your iPhone, you need to use the Apple Wallet app to store your credit card or debit card info securely. Go to Settings > Wallet, and tap ‘+’ in the top right corner, and follow the on-screen prompts to add a new card. When your card is verified, tap Next, and you can start using Apple Pay straight away.

Using NFC to pay with your Android smartphone

If you’ve got an Android smartphone, you can use Google Pay to spend your hard-earned cash. Simply open the app (or install it if it’s not already on your phone), and add a payment method. Then turn on NFC in the phone’s settings, and you’re good to go. When you want to pay for something, just wake up your phone and hold its back to the payment reader for a few seconds (you don’t even need to open the Google Pay app). A blue check mark will then appear on your screen, showing you the payment’s been made successfully. If it doesn’t, just try holding your phone in a different way -  your NFC antenna could be near the top or bottom of it.

Should I use NFC?

Yes, we definitely recommend using NFC. It’s quick, secure and extremely versatile. Plus, it hardly uses any processing power – so it’ll never slow down your phone or hits its battery life. Now that all the major phone makers have put NFC chips in their smartphones, and there are loads of apps designed to use NFC, the technology is playing an important part in making our lives a little easier!

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