NFC on Android: what is it for and how to use it?

NFC (Near Field Communication) is a technology integrated into many Android smartphones. It simplifies the exchange of files, contacts, photos and videos. It is also the technology that allows contactless payment or mobile transport passes. In this file, we will show you what it is for and how to use it.

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Credits: Unsplash

NFC is still an underutilized technology, and many users prefer to disable the feature for safety. However, in detail, the possibilities offered by this technology have everything to encourage you to learn how to use it better and limit the risks. We will explain everything to you.

What is NFC and what is it for?

NFC is a wireless transmission technology which works at short range, it allows the exchange of information between two smartphones, or compatible devices. The idea is that in some cases it is desirable to be able to initiate a connection or data transfer with relatively low security, but at very short range. While the range of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth is counted in several meters, in the case of NFC it will rather be necessary to count on a few centimeters.

It is often necessary to position the sensor well so that the transmitter and the receiver can interact. NFC can thus simplify pairing with certain Bluetooth devices, transfer contacts, photos, application data and many other things just by approaching the smartphone, without further user action. It is very convenient to use. The other big outlet is of course contactless payment.

The first smartphone to embed this technology was the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (2011). Since then, many smartphones have adopted this feature. Some of them have an N logo (as in the illustration in this article), or even on the battery for older models. All iPhones since iPhone 7 have it (but its use remains more limited in the Apple ecosystem) On Android, the best way to ensure that you have it if you don’t know it, it is to check directly in the parameters of the smartphone:

  • See you in Settings
  • Press on More from the menu Wireless and network
  • Select NFC (if your smartphone is equipped with it)

One of the advantages of NFC is the simplified exchange of data between two terminals. Sharing is supported by AndroidBeam, which will automatically detect the other terminal with which we wish to communicate. No need to bother with pairing like in the case of Bluetooth, therefore.

nfc android beam

To start, you have to make sure that the NFC and Android Beam are activated. For it :

  • Go into Settings > More > NFC and activate the NFC
  • Touch Android Beam and activate it

To start data sharing:

  • On your smartphone, open the content to share
  • Approach the back of the recipient’s smartphone to the back of your smartphone (in general, the upper part of the two smartphones should be matched)
  • Press on Tap to share

It is then possible to share multimedia files, but also practically any content that is displayed on the screen: web page, YouTube video, contacts, itinerary, etc. To use it is to adopt it!

NFC can turn your smartphone into a means of payment. Alongside Apple Pay on iPhones, Android smartphones offer Google Pay, Samsung Pay and Paylib, in addition to contactless payment offered by certain dematerialized banks such as Orange Bank.

Samsung Pay

Samsung Pay is available in France for customers of the following banks and organisations:

  • Apetiz
  • BCP Bank
  • Bank of Savoy
  • People’s Bank
  • Boursorama Bank
  • savings bank
  • Lydia
  • Max
  • Ticket Restaurant – Edenred
  • Agricultural credit
  • Bank of Savoy
  • cooperative credit
  • Credit North
  • Fortuneo Bank
  • The postal bank
  • Lydia
  • My French Bank
  • Max
  • PCS
  • Maestro
  • MasterCard
  • VISA

Google Pay

Google Pay is also recently available in France in a selection of banks:

  • Apetiz
  • boon
  • Boursorama Bank
  • Bunq
  • Fortuneo
  • Lydia
  • ManagerOne
  • Max
  • Monese
  • N26
  • Orange Bank
  • pixpay
  • Revolut
  • Swile
  • Up Lunch Voucher
  • Vybe
  • Zelf
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Credits: Unsplash


Paylib is offered by the following banks:

  • Agricultural credit
  • BNP Paribas
  • The postal bank
  • Societe Generale
  • Hello Bank
  • Boursorama Bank
  • Credit Mutuel Arkea
  • People’s Bank
  • Savings Bank
  • Mutual credit
  • CIC

These partner payment services are also supported:

  • Up2Pay
  • Mercanet by BPB Paribas
  • Scellius
  • Sogenactif
  • Sog eCommerce
  • Citelis
  • LCL Sherlock’s
  • Monext Retail
  • Business website
  • Click and Pay by Credit du Nord
  • Pay Zen by Lyra
  • Worldline
  • Ingenico
  • Verifone e-commerce
  • Paybox by Verifone
  • Monetico Payment

Contact your bank to find out how to activate Paylib on your smartphone.

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Credits: Unsplash

Orange Bank

Another player offering contactless payment in France, Orange Bank for which you can find more details by clicking here. Most bank cards are also equipped with an NFC chip, which allows contactless payment. Currently, the ceiling is still set at €50. With the health crisis, Orange had decided to increase the maximum amount of contactless payment to encourage this type of payment and limit the transmission of the virus as much as possible.

Also note that NFC allows us to use our smartphones as a ticket. This is for example the case in Toulouse and Nice. In Paris, the Navigo pass has recently become available via NFC.

Apart from mobile payment, transport and data sharing, it is also possible to use the NFC to activate or deactivate a feature accurate on a smartphone or other device. For example, you want to deactivate the Wi-Fi each time you enter your vehicle, no problem, just leave an NFC tag in your cabin and each time the back of your smartphone rubs against it, it this will disable Wi-Fi.

This is just one example among many others, it can be used to activate airplane mode, Bluetooth or conversely deactivate them. The possibilities are limitless especially on Android.

It’s still rare for the moment, but NFC tags can also nestle in business cards, movie tickets, medicines and much more. Manufacturers do not seem to lack ideas for democratizing wireless communication technology.

Credits: Unsplash

NFC: what are the real security risks?

Since the feature exists, it is often permanently disabled by users. Some fear that hackers will manage to exploit the system to compromise the device, exfiltrate data or make payments without your knowledge… Right or wrong?

In the case of the smartphone, very limited risks

In fact by design, NFC is rather secure: you have to be extremely close to the smartphone (and most often touch it with the other device) to be able to initiate data transmission. And the operating system always asks for confirmation from the user to do any action initiated by NFC.

In other words, if someone tries to exploit the NFC, they should literally touch your smartphone, in a very particular way since the sensor is often capricious. Incorrect positioning can indeed prevent the transfer of data via NFC.

However, a risk may arise from “wild” NFC tags that would be created by hackers for malicious purposes. But to protect yourself, it is actually enough to pay attention to what is displayed on the smartphone when the sensor detects the NFC tag in question.

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The case of bank cards with NFC

Most banks now offer their customers bank cards with an NFC chip for contactless payment. In theory, a hacker could approach a self-made device to your wallet and attempt to steal money from you. This is more possible than on a smartphone, because the card does not ask for confirmation in the event of a contactless payment.

However, there are two limitations: first, the daily limit of 30 euros which limits the risk of finding yourself overdrawn. The security of the cards, itself, is also high and does not put this kind of hacking within everyone’s reach. Finally, note that there are special wallets that block NFC signals that could pass through to be as serene as possible.

Read also: NFC – these jeans protect your bank cards from hackers!

Do you use NFC?

Technology has many advantages, it has been in existence for several years now and its use is spreading at breakneck speed. In the years to come, we expect an explosion of contactless payment, which is already growing rapidly. And to a proliferation of transport authorities offering tickets on smartphones. Services are arriving little by little, banks and builders are adapting to new needs, traders and public services are better and better equipped.

And you, do you use NFC in your daily life? Do you find it useful? Or do you consider it more of a gimmicky option? Share your feedback in the comments!

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