Although there are more and more Windows phones and Android devices having NFC built in,  it is probably one of the least used features on phones and a lot of people do not know what NFC can do or even know it exists. For iOS devices, only newer devices have it but the NFC is locked down for Apple Pay only.

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What is NFC?

NFC is a standard that enables close range communication between devices or between NFC-enabled devices with NFC tags. All the communication can be done by tapping your phone to NFC tags. To be exact, your phone does not have to touch the NFC tags physically. Typically NFC has a reading distance of a few centimeters so you have to get quite near in order to activate the connection.

You can do a lot of things with NFC. You can use NFC to pair devices, share contacts, make mobile payment (Not available here in Malaysia) and also use NFC stickers to activate certain apps or toggle device settings.

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NFC Tags

In this post I will share how I use my Lumia 620 which has NFC with a NFC sticker (as shown in the figure above) which I bought from eBay for as low as RM3 (around  USD 1) each. The sticker looks normal but when it is placed under bright light, you will notice there is wiring in it. The coil is actually the antenna used to absorb power and to transmit the information stored inside. The power will be provided by the NFC-enabled device when they try to read the tag. If you do not like stickers, NFC tags also come in the form of wrist band, key chain and other mediums but they will cost you slightly more. Plain NFC sticker are the cheapest option available in market, do share in the comment section below if you found cheaper solutions.

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NFC Writing Apps

So after you get the sticker, you need to download a NFC writing app on your phone. You can search for “NFC” on Google Play Store and Windows Store. There are plenty of apps available for free. It is very hard to recommend any as from time to time each app will get updates and they will be better than its competitor. The best way to find out is to try them out and find the app that suits you most.

These apps will be used to program the NFC tag. In Android phones, you will have greater NFC control capabilities as compared to Windows Phone. While both will let you to fire up apps and share contacts, in Android phones the settings can be toggled immediately instead of getting to the setting page in Windows Phone. If you root your Android devices, you can even let your phone read NFC tags even in lock screen.

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So in my Lumia 620, I am using an app called NFC Launchit. There are lists of system apps and popular apps for you to choose to launch after you tap your device on NFC tag. If the app you want is not listed, you can search from the store too. After you make your selection, the app will wait for you to place the NFC tag on your phone so that it can program it. Then a message will be shown if the tag writing is successful. NFC tags are reprogrammable. It means that you can rewrite it again and again.

Using NFC Tags

The next thing is the placement of your tag. For me, I place it on my dashboard of my car so that I can reach it whenever I want. I programmed the NFC tag to launch Here Drive+ on my phone, which is a very useful offline navigation app. So whenever I need direction shown to me, I would tap my phone on the tag and the app will be opened immediately.

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In Android phone, the actions programmed will be executed immediately but that is not the case for Windows Phone. In Windows Phone 8, every time the NFC tag is read, you have to click “Accept” before the action can be started. Having to do it every time is not fun at all. Luckily in the Windows Phone 8.1 update, we have an option to choose the trusted app and the manual approval will not be required , allowing you to get to the app immediately.

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Other Uses

Besides using NFC tags to start an app, some people will have these stickers on their contact card so that their clients can save their contact easily which also creates a professional image for the clients.

You can also stick these NFC tags at places where you usually change the settings of your phone. For example you can stick one in your car to toggle Bluetooth so that your phone can be connected to the audio system of your car. You can also have a tag beside your bed to turn your phone to flight mode.

NFC tags are very useful if you know how to use them right. Be creative and you might be surprised on what it can do for you instead of being forgotten. After all it will be very wasteful if you do not use your gadgets to their full potential.

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