Monday, October 1, 2012

Do Cool Stuff w/Your Phone's Built-In NFC! (You know you've been wanting to try it)

After I got my Galaxy S3, I rooted, swapped ROMS, and added Google Wallet (which you can now do on most Verizon devices without root thanks to the FCC ruling regarding tethering).

I kind of forgot about NFC until a couple weeks later when I left my wallet in the car and needed to checkout at Meijer (the better version of Target). I fired up the app, picked my AMEX from the list of saved cards, and bam. Paid. No more cutting out the RFID from my fast-tap enabled credit card and stuffing it behind the phone's back cover for me ;) ! 

But after that, without mainstream adoption (cough cough, Apple, cough cough) or NFC-enabled payment readers in most stores, I didn't really find a practical use for my phone's shiny new capability.

Most NFC writers will only encode primitive actions, such as displaying a URL, launching an app, or checking in somewhere on FourSquare. Big whoop. So I started trying to hack together a more robust solution.
Using Tasker App Factory, you can cheat the NFC writer's limitations by creating an App to perform a custom Tasker function and then encoding the NFC tag to simply launch said app. A little hack-y, but at least it opens up a wide variety of actions that can be controlled via NFC.

Still, how useful is it, really, to use NFC to launch a Tasker macro? Does it really save you time? If you have to unlock your phone, swipe past the lockscreen, then tap your NFC tag, the answer is no. But what if you could launch a task using NFC while your screen is off, and without pressing any buttons?

Imagine being able to activate your phone's LED flashlight simply by tapping it to your keychain... or to start your music or go to next track without removing your phone from your pocket! or to send a pre-written text message (to your girlfriend when you leave work, for example) just with a quick tap of an NFC dongle. All of a sudden, NFC would become a highly modular extra button for your phone that you can program to do virtually any set of actions.

Thanks to xda-developers and the enthusiastic community of Android devs in general, you can very easily force NFC to remain active even while the screen is locked and off :) Here's the original article from June, and here's a direct link to instructions for the Verizon Galaxy S3. As for Tag Writing apps, check out my favorite, NFC Task Launcher.

So where to get NFC tags? There are plenty of places online to find stickers for a few bucks a pop.

OR you can use NFC ReTag to rewrite some of your old Metro cards you have lying around :)

But I've found stickers aren't very fun. They restrict you to sacrificing the tag by leaving it in (and adhered to) one place permanently. And I don't particularly want to carry around a bunch of extra metro cards... So I thought:

Why not have an encased NFC tag (or several) on your keychain, instead?

Why not indeed. The only thing sweeter would be a way to tell your different tags apart.

I'm happy to announce, that as of today, you can now order as many NFC Keychain Dongles as you want with custom engravings to tell them apart - a world first :)

So head on over and grab the newest product from,
the NFC Keychain Dongle!

The first 50 buyers will get a FREE extra tag!

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