Near Field Communication on Android* Tablets and Hand-held Devices - An Introduction


Near Field Communication (NFC) is a set of communication standards which allow peer-to-peer data exchanges between two closely held end points. Normally the distance between the devices is required to be less than 4cm. NFC originated on RFID systems, and gradually developed into a standard communication protocol on smart phones and tablets. Intel® AtomTM based Android tablets and hand-held devices support NFC.

NFC and Android Beam*

To allow two Android devices to communicate via NFC, first you must turn on NFC on both devices using Android Settings. The following screenshot shows how it is done on a tablet:

If two devices are physically tapped together, Android Beam allows one device to push an NFC data message on to the other device. The following screen shots show the interactions between the two devices.

Web browser was running on one device:

When this device was tapped with another Android device, the “Touch to Beam” message was displayed:

At this point, the user touched the browser, and an NFC message was “beamed” to the other device, and browser was invoked to open the same URL on that device:

NFC Data Formats

The use case described in the previous section involved NFC data exchanges between the two devices in the form of NDEF messages. Android platform APIs support two major use cases using the NDEF data messages:

  • Reading NDEF data from an NFC tag
  • Beaming (pushing) NDEF messages to another device

Other NFC Use Cases

Besides using NFC to beam NDEF messages between 2 devices, NFC-enabled smart phones and tablets potentially provide a foundation for a wide range of commerce and entertainment applications, such as:

  • Contactless payment
  • Identity verification
  • Interactive Gaming


NFC allows direct exchanges of data between two Android devices. It has some significant advantages over other methods such as Bluetooth and WiFi:

  • No pairing is needed
  • The communication is secure because of the short distance required between the two devices

We will discuss how to develop NFC applications in the coming blogs.


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