Samsung and Sony are doing their parts to push Near Field Communication (NFC) technology beyond mobile payments. The two are among the handful of phone makers including NFC in their devices, but have also introduced ways that mainstream consumers can make NFC work for themnot just by passively tapping posters and such out in the world but by actively setting the information in the tags.
Alongside its Xperia ion smartphone, Sony introduced SmartTags, which are a bit like the little metal buttons that museum visitors slip through their button holes. Sony and likely its carrier partners will sell four-packs of these for $30. Samsung, with its Galaxy S III, has introduced TecTiles, plastic, no-tear stickers the size of large stamps (you can see them in this slideshow) that its selling five to a pack for $15.
With the Galaxy S III arriving at T-Mobile and Sprint stores June 21Verizon Wireless, AT&T and US Cellular will also sell it, along with the TecTiles, in the coming weeksI downloaded the free Samsung TecTile app from the Google Play store to try out with a T-Mobile Galaxy S III review unit.
Really the only two things to know about TecTiles are that they dont work on metalnot that they wont stick, but that the metal does something goofy to the phones ability to read the tagand that the most challenging thing about them is deciding what to use them for.
But first, heres how it works: Download the app, open it and youre presented with four options:
*Settings and Apps: Go this route and you can change settings on the phone, such as the ringer volume, turning on or off WiFi, Bluetooth or alarms, or putting the phone in Car mode or Night Mode. You can also make the phone launch an app, join a particular WiFi network or show a message.
*Phone & Text: Here you can make the phone place a call, send a text message, share a contact or start a Google Talk conversation.
*Location & Web: From this menu you can ask the phone to show an address or location, open a Web page or check in to Facebook or Foursquare.
*Social: This menu lets you program a Web page (or brand or restaurant or whatnot) to Like on Facebook, a Tweet to send, or a quick way to follow someone on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.
In each instance, the app walks you through the very straightforward, five-second process, asks you to tap the phone to the tag youd like to program, et voila: You have a little sticker that you can, say, tap before bed to make the phone quickly set the alarm, turn off the WiFi and turn down the ringer.
Though after making exactly such a sticker, I realized I needed to make a second sticker that would turn the ringer and WiFi back on just as quickly.
The stickers are reprogrammable, which is excellent, because the more I used them, the more I thought of better uses for them. My husband has a habit of deciding to send our daughter to daycare late, but later, in the rush to get out the door, forgetting to text the daycare provider to say hes on his way. A sticker on her lunchbox, programmed to send a text saying theyre on their way, would make such texts far more likely to be sent.
Ive also been feeling on the fence about getting personal business cards. With a TecTile sticker, I could instead just point someone with an NFC phone to my Twitter feed or my personal Website.
The more I thought about it, the more uses I imagined, especially for small business owners. At the farmers market I visit each weekend, for example, I can imagine the vendors using such stickersstuck somewhere on their tables or postersto have customers or passersby sign up for their mailing lists, or to hop on their Websites, or to Like their honey or lavender or fresh eggs on Facebook. These are tools bigger businesses have had access and been hip to for some time, but that can be change makers for the Etsy set and other small-business owners.
NFC isnt new, but giving everyone the power to control it makes it suddenly seem a revelation.