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Old 11th November 2012, 01:53   #1
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Default NFC Tags for Android - Review

NFC (Near Field Communications) is a new technology in mobile world. It is supposed to be used for mobile payments like Google Wallet.

Most of the new Android and Windows phone have NFC support. I have a Samsung Galaxy S3 that has NFC as well as S-Beam so i thought why not use it. It is a small sticker with NFC built in. It can be programmed to perform various actions. I decided to get some in order to get first hand feel of how it works and if it is of any use in day to day life.

Samsung recently came out with tech tiles. More info can be found in the link below

http://www.samsung.com/us/microsite/tectile/

Samsung sells 3 NFC Tags for $15. I think its expensive. I looked around and found a very good site called www.tagsfordroid.com. I ordered 5 tags for $11 and got NFC Keychain and stickers free. I received it a couple of days ago and started using it. Here is the review of what i think of the NFC Tags.

Configuring and using NFC Tags is very easy. It took me all of 1 min to set it up. Here is what i did.

I used NFC Task Launcher to configure what i wanna do with tags. The app gives you popular tags like Home, Car, Work. You can enable/disable settings in that. I chose to do a new one for my car.

I chose following options.

1. Wifi Toggle
2. Bluetooth Toggle
3. Ring Volume
4. Launch Maps
5. Enable GPS
6. Brightness to 25%
7. Launch MP3 Player
8. Send a message to my wife that i am on my way.

I made sure the tag is re-writable. You can lock it if you want making it read only but i prefer to re-write if i don't like the options. Once you click save and write, you have to close-in a tag at the back of the phone and it successfully saves it. All of this takes less than a minute if you know what you want to do with a tag.

I put the sticker in the car and started testing. First time it enables everything. If i am arriving at home, i put it to the tag and the settings are reversed. It works awesome even with a case. I also tested my friend's Nexus. It works fine and so does another S3. I then went ahead to configured other tags for work, home and gym. I am a happy camper. Money well spent.

The good thing about this tags is the capacity to write is huge (1000 bytes). Other tags are quite small in size thereby limiting what options you can put on it. Also this tags are good for 100,000 cycles.

So here are the pros and cons.

+ Easy to use and configure
+ Saves lots of clicks and time
+ Fast
+ Versatile
+ Very secure
+ No need of app after configuring.
+ Tasker command integrated into NFC opening up many options

- Market for NFC not mature enough
- You need to have the phone unlocked to use the tags.
- Lots of options to explore. Can replace QR Codes if used properly.
- Expensive initially but VFM over long time.
- Battery hog
- NFC Devices are few and far in market.

There are plenty of tutorials available online on how to set this up. If anyone requires a video tutorial, please let me know i would be glad to make a demo.

Thank you for reading.
Attached Thumbnails
NFC Tags for Android - Review-20121110_114539.jpg  


Last edited by chevelle : 11th November 2012 at 01:57.
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Old 11th November 2012, 15:52   #2
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Default Re: NFC Tags for Android - Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by chevelle View Post
I have a Samsung Galaxy S3 that has NFC as well as S-Beam so i thought why not use it. It is a small sticker with NFC built in. It can be programmed to perform various actions. I decided to get some in order to get first hand feel of how it works and if it is of any use in day to day life.
Great! Thanks for the detailed review. I have been thinking of buying some tags and combining them with tasker (the app) to achieve my desired settings at various locations. Only thing that stops me is the options of the tags. They are very few here on Indian ebay site.

I have a specific question around NFC tags - I was thinking of buying them simply to control some of the settings to save on battery. For example, I dont need Wifi and GPS at office - so I was thinking of setting up a work tag to shut down Wifi, GPS and some of the brightness controls when I reach office. And as soon as I reach home, Wifi should start.

But it looks like NFC itself is a battery hog according to your review- the whole purpose for me is then defeated (of using NFC to save on battery). Wouldnt it?

Anyways, I think the usage of NFC is promising, I will probably buy some as soon as I get to know more about options available here in India. Thanks for your review again.
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Old 11th November 2012, 19:35   #3
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Default Re: NFC Tags for Android - Review

Is it similar to this?
https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...ab.Llama&hl=en

It works using Cell towers, might not be as accurate, but it still works!

Quote:

Llama uses phone masts to determine your location, so that you can change your ringer, vibrate and ringtones depending on where you are as well as the time of day. Llama provides you with sound profiles so you can quickly switch between quiet, loud, silent and normal sound settings. You can set your family, wife and children to ring even if your phone is set to silent! You can create events and home screen shortcuts to manage your sound profiles and more:
-Silence your phone at work
-Turn your Bluetooth on ready to connect your headset for a morning run
-Set your phone quiet when it's late at night and you haven't gone out
-Start the music player when a headset is connected
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Old 11th November 2012, 23:58   #4
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Default Re: NFC Tags for Android - Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by sids911 View Post
Great! Thanks for the detailed review. I have been thinking of buying some tags and combining them with tasker (the app) to achieve my desired settings at various locations. Only thing that stops me is the options of the tags. They are very few here on Indian ebay site.

I have a specific question around NFC tags - I was thinking of buying them simply to control some of the settings to save on battery. For example, I dont need Wifi and GPS at office - so I was thinking of setting up a work tag to shut down Wifi, GPS and some of the brightness controls when I reach office. And as soon as I reach home, Wifi should start.

But it looks like NFC itself is a battery hog according to your review- the whole purpose for me is then defeated (of using NFC to save on battery). Wouldnt it?

Anyways, I think the usage of NFC is promising, I will probably buy some as soon as I get to know more about options available here in India. Thanks for your review again.
Most websites ship internationally. The one i bought from does the same. You can email them and ask about shipping cost.

here is xda's thread that lists all the internationally available tags.

http://forum.xda-developers.com/show....php?t=1662367

The work task you mentioned is what i have configured on one of tags. it makes it simple.

as for the nfc being battery hog, well, you can create a 1-click widget and switch it off once you are done. you still save plenty of clicks and time with this. i will do some more tests on how NFC being on consumes battery daily. will update soon. Most of the time i am very close to power source so it doesn't bother me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bond_bhai View Post
Is it similar to this?
https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...ab.Llama&hl=en

It works using Cell towers, might not be as accurate, but it still works!
Yes, it is somewhat like location based profiles. but this not only loads profiles, this launches any apps or any tasks you want it to do. The options are practically limitless. And with launch of google wallet and couple of NFC based payments by Starbucks, the use of NFC increases a lot.

The best thing i found is, it integrates with Tasker. Opens up lot many options.

Last edited by chevelle : 12th November 2012 at 00:07.
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Old 12th November 2012, 21:11   #5
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Default Re: NFC Tags for Android - Review

Thanks for this thread Chevelle! I have some questions:

Quote:
Originally Posted by chevelle View Post
I decided to get some in order to get first hand feel of how it works and if it is of any use in day to day life.
Aren't there different types of NFC tags? (ie slightly differing standards)

How do you know which ones are compatible with your phone?

Quote:
Originally Posted by chevelle View Post
you have to close-in a tag at the back of the phone and it successfully saves it.
What is the MAXIMUM distance these tags will work at? For example, if i have one on the other side of a door, and i touch the door with my phone - will it read?

Quote:
Originally Posted by chevelle View Post
I also tested my friend's Nexus. It works fine and so does another S3.
You mean the actual "instructions" are stored on the tag? (eg. turn off wifi, turn on BT, etc).

Or, did you have to set up the profile on those other 2 phones?

Quote:
Originally Posted by chevelle View Post
Also this tags are good for 100,000 cycles.
I'm guessing this is WRITE cycles?

Quote:
Originally Posted by chevelle View Post
- Battery hog
I've not seen too many complaints of this. Wonder if we could get some actual figures here. Perhaps an anandtech test or something!

Thanks,
R
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Old 12th November 2012, 22:01   #6
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Default Re: NFC Tags for Android - Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rehaan View Post
Thanks for this thread Chevelle! I have some questions:

Aren't there different types of NFC tags? (ie slightly differing standards)

How do you know which ones are compatible with your phone?

What is the MAXIMUM distance these tags will work at? For example, if i have one on the other side of a door, and i touch the door with my phone - will it read?

You mean the actual "instructions" are stored on the tag? (eg. turn off wifi, turn on BT, etc).

Or, did you have to set up the profile on those other 2 phones?

I'm guessing this is WRITE cycles?

I've not seen too many complaints of this. Wonder if we could get some actual figures here. Perhaps an anandtech test or something!

Thanks,
R
There are four types of tags.

1. It is based on the ISO14443A standard. These NFC tags are read and re-write capable and users can configure the tag to become read-only. The communication speed of this NFC tag is 106 kbit/s. Memory available from 96 bytes to 2kb. As a result of its simplicity this tag type is cost effective and ideal for many NFC applications.

2. Same as above. The memory is 48 bytes to 2kb.

3. It is based on Sony FeliCa System. It has a 2 kbyte memory and the communications speed is 212 kbit/s. this NFC tag type is for more complex applications and has a higher cost per tag.

4. Last one is compatible with ISO14443A and B standards. These NFC tags are pre-configured at manufacture level and they can be either read / re-writable, or read-only. The memory can be up to 32 kbytes and the communication speed is between 106 kbit/s and 424 kbit/s.

The one that is available on the internet are the Type 1 and Type 2. I have also seen some websites which have Type 4 available. I got the Type 1 tags with 1kb of memory size. Sufficient enough to hold many actions.

As for the compatibility, i was under impression any tags will work as both the standards are available in SGS3. It supports NDEF format which is the standard for NFC Tags. The 100000 cycles is WRITE and READ.

The maximum distance i have tried is ~1 inch apart with case in between and it has worked. I haven't tried the example you have mentioned. I will try it out today and let you know.

Yes, instructions a.k.a NDEF message are stored on the tag. It will execute those actions once it encounters the nfc tag. In my case, it turns on BT, turns off wifi, lowers brightness to 15% and launches Music player and Maps as soon as i enter my car and touch the tag. When leaving, i touch it again and does the opposite.

I didn't not create any profiles. You don't have to. Only thing you need is NFC Task launcher app to configure the actions for the tag. Everything else is taken care of by the tag itself when it communicates with the phone. That is why i find it very convenient to use.

As far as battery use is concerned, i have noticed marginal loss of battery when NFC is switched on. I cannot put any numbers but i will do so soon with and without NFC. The only time when it will consume more battery is when it is communicating with tags. I do it at least 6 times a day and consumption has gone up a little.

Sorry for the long post. Hope this helps.

Last edited by chevelle : 12th November 2012 at 22:08.
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Old 13th November 2012, 11:28   #7
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Default Re: NFC Tags for Android - Review

I got a few tags with the phone which i bought recently (Xperia Sola ).. i was completely clueless about it lol.Thanks chevelle, now i have a faint idea..
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Old 13th November 2012, 22:25   #8
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Default Re: NFC Tags for Android - Review

One of the FAQ about NFC tag is "where can I buy it?". I had the same question for some time and found a trustworthy place - Sony World.

You can buy XPERIA NFC tags (which are of course compatible with any handset) from Sony World shops.

It's pricier than the online options though. A set of 4 tags will cost you 1000 Rs. They're 48 byte tags.

Please let all of us know if you know a better place to buy tags.
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Old 14th November 2012, 11:32   #9
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Default Re: NFC Tags for Android - Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by tachobells View Post
Please let all of us know if you know a better place to buy tags.
I don't know if it is a better place, but if you search on ebay India you get cheaper tags.

Eg: 499/- for 3 1KB tags
http://www.ebay.in/itm/3-Pcs-NFC-Re-...item3ccc467853

Has anyone tried these ?

-Fillmore
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Old 14th November 2012, 13:07   #10
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Default Re: NFC Tags for Android - Review

I am a bit newbie to this NFC thing. Just wanted to know if the data transfer happens using the NFC protocol or something? When I was reading about NFC and its support in Windows 8, I got an impression that NFC is used only for initial handshake while the communication (data transfer) happens through either wifi/bluetooth. But looking at tags, looks like NFC is capable of data transfer as well. Let me know your inputs.
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Old 14th November 2012, 15:24   #11
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Default Re: NFC Tags for Android - Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by neoonwheels View Post
I am a bit newbie to this NFC thing. Just wanted to know if the data transfer happens using the NFC protocol or something? When I was reading about NFC and its support in Windows 8, I got an impression that NFC is used only for initial handshake while the communication (data transfer) happens through either wifi/bluetooth. But looking at tags, looks like NFC is capable of data transfer as well. Let me know your inputs.
AFAIK, what you said is true. NFC is for handshake, mass data transfer happens through another channel. This is the case for media sharing etc(eg: android beam).

But these NFC tags have very less data (About 1-2K max). Hence the data is read without activating Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

Last edited by tachobells : 14th November 2012 at 15:31.
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Old 14th November 2012, 15:32   #12
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Default Re: NFC Tags for Android - Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by tachobells View Post
AFAIK, what you said is true. NFC is for handshake, mass data transfer(eg: android beam) happens through another channel. This is the case for media sharing etc.

But these NFC tags have very less data (About 1-2K max). Hence the data is read without activating Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
So we can transfer very small chunk of data using NFC, rt? Say around 15 characters (15 bytes)? Can two mobiles/devices transfer such small amount of data using NFC (Without help of wifi/bluetooth)? Also can this connection be secured?
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Old 14th November 2012, 15:47   #13
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Default Re: NFC Tags for Android - Review

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Originally Posted by neoonwheels View Post
So we can transfer very small chunk of data using NFC, rt? Say around 15 characters (15 bytes)? Can two mobiles/devices transfer such small amount of data using NFC (Without help of wifi/bluetooth)? Also can this connection be secured?
Yes, 15 bytes is definitely something NFC can handle by itself.
NFC tags are available upto around 1-2K IIRC. These tags don't have bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Which means upto 1-2K can be transferred using NFC.

But, for device to device transfer of large amount of data, a better approach is to handshake using NFC and then use bluetooth to transfer the rest.

And about secure connection, I don't know much.
You can get some info from here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_field_communication.
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Old 14th November 2012, 22:44   #14
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Default Re: NFC Tags for Android - Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by neoonwheels View Post
I am a bit newbie to this NFC thing. Just wanted to know if the data transfer happens using the NFC protocol or something? When I was reading about NFC and its support in Windows 8, I got an impression that NFC is used only for initial handshake while the communication (data transfer) happens through either wifi/bluetooth. But looking at tags, looks like NFC is capable of data transfer as well. Let me know your inputs.

NFC uses magnetic induction between two loop antennas located within two phones, effectively forming an air-core transformer. The NFC protocols used are based on RFID (Radio Freq ID) and Contactless IC Cards (ISO/IEC 14443). It doesn't require any batteries or wifi or BT to transfer data. But you can use NFC as a bootstrap to those connections like Android Beam does. So only in this scenario does NFC initiates the communication and then hands it over to the BT/Wifi. The reason it does is because NFC is not faster than BT so it is used to initiate the data transfer in Android Beam and then it switches to BT for faster transfer. When i use S-Beam, i notice when transferring big files, it is very fast. Just with NFC (S3-Nexus) it was slow as i don't think it uses NFC and BT. S-Beam is like Android Beam, just Samsung's version.

On its own, NFC is capable of transferring data upto 2k bytes in size. This is sufficient to store a URL or make a mobile payment, needless to say many more options you can do. Since NFC Tags are capable of encryption and locks, the use is widespread and many companies do promote using it as a key cards used to enter an office.

I have configured it with 10 commands and still there is plenty of space left in 1k bytes of tags i got. I would suggest one get a higher memory tag just to have more options of customizing. With 48 bytes and 64 bytes, the options are limiting.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Rehaan View Post

What is the MAXIMUM distance these tags will work at? For example, if i have one on the other side of a door, and i touch the door with my phone - will it read?

I've not seen too many complaints of this. Wonder if we could get some actual figures here. Perhaps an anandtech test or something!

Thanks,
R
Hi Rehaan,

So i tested the example you gave and it doesn't work. I have to keep tags close to phone - Max i tried was a inch apart and it worked. If there is an object like door in between, it doesn't work. Please note that doors were quite thick(~2 inches) so i don't think it would be successful.

As for battery, two days i tested with and without NFC. The difference in battery was around 10-12% more when using NFC. I used NFC 6 times in those 8 hours while keeping it running all the time. These are not hard core numbers and please take it with a pinch of salt. I tried to keep the usage pattern as similar as i could but then there is human error involved. But sufficient to say it uses anywhere from 5-15% battery with NFC enabled.

Last edited by chevelle : 14th November 2012 at 22:58.
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Old 4th June 2013, 20:11   #15
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Default Re: NFC Tags for Android - Review

Just stumbled across this thread.
Been using these tags for a while now, got them for review from Tagsfordroid to review on my blog. Not sure if I am allowed to post a link, so will not right now.

These are absolutely awesome tags, and make life so much cooler and easier.
My use cases:
1. My contact written on tag. Put tag in front chain in my wallet. When you want to share your contact with someone with a NFC enabled phone, just tap the wallet a voila, contact on their phone.
2. Keychain, put in blog's URL, tapping opens the blog. Mostly for timepass purpose
3. Wrote tag with following switch:
Wifi On/Off
Sound on/Vibrate
Lockscreen off/On
Stuck the tag near the entry of my house. Tapping when entering puts it in home mode, i.e WiFi on, Sound on and lockscreen off. Tapping again when going out makes the phone go to Outside mode, i.e WiFi off, Vibrate and Lockscreen On.

A pic:
NFC Tags for Android - Review-img_0372.jpg
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