back to article WTF is... NFC

Near Field Communications (NFC) has been around for almost a decade, but only recently become a smartphone feature because, simply, no one knows what it's for. Not that NFC is short of applications, but its broad utility makes it hard to pin its ideal usage model down. When Nokia, Philips and Sony first proposed the short- …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not too bad

    If you want to pay for a sandwich in London. Some of these places have queues out the door even with a whole bank of self-service NFC terminals. But other than that I can take the 5 second hit from typing in my pin. I think the sandwich shops are the only people who can afford the high price of these transactions anyway.

    1. Tom 38

      Re: It's not too bad

      All of these payment options take longer than giving the guy a fiver. They have machines now you can go up to, stick your card in and get cash instantly, and you can get enough of it in one go that you can give it to other people in return for services for several days.

      Works for me. Plus, no-one is analysing what you spend your cash on.

      1. David Barrett

        Re: It's not too bad

        Card dropped in street : Phone for new card.

        Cash dropped in street : ?

        Thats one of the reasons I dont like carrying cash.

        Another is that card payments are faster than waiting for cashier to count my change, getting it wrong, sorting it (Or more commonly just not realising that they gave you the wrong cahneg in the first place.

        I really dont care if some one wants to pour over my card purchases.. the only thing that I would be concerned about would be what they thought was happening on the days when my girlfriend borrows my card and goes clothes shopping.

      2. Matt_payne666

        Re: It's not too bad

        I don't know about you, but I often like change back from my sub whole note transactions....

        I would bet my sandwich that tapping my NFC card against the terminal is faster than a PFY at the cash register, struggling to decipher the mindboggling array of different shaped and coloured payment discs to exchange for my paper rectangle...

        1. Tom 38

          Re: It's not too bad

          Well, you would be wrong. It happens to me every day, queuing up in Eat behind people paying for stuff with card - contactless or otherwise. It's miles slower than cash.

          Cash: Here's a fiver, here's your change, I'm gone.

          Card: Tap it where? Oh, ok. Wait, that one didn't work, try again. Its authorizing... Ok.

          Cash is always negotiable, has no barrier to acceptance, and is accepted worldwide.

          1. Ragarath

            Re: It's not too bad

            Try taking your fiver to the USA and see if your fiver is accepted there, not so worlwide huh. Going to the bank and then to the store, nice you have just made your transaction a lot longer. As long as the terminals do not have a dialup conection I always find it quicker than cash to type in a pin.

            You do not have to rely on the casiers math skills or wether something intterupts them.

            1. jonathanb Silver badge

              Re: It's not too bad

              Your fiver will be accepted at many bureax de change around the country, were they will exchange it for the green coloured bits of paper the retailers there prefer.

          2. h4rm0ny

            Re: It's not too bad

            But in your example it seems that it is slower because of inexperience or immature technology, and both of these will change. The speed difference is never more clearly shown than on a bus when people just walk on and slide their card against a scanner without pausing, vs, someone stopping to pay in change and counting it out.

            Personally I'm fine with NFC payments on two conditions. One - I can still use cash when I don't want to leave a data trail and two - I can use a credit card system rather than direct account deduction. I want to set limits on these things just the same way I only want to carry twenty quid around instead of two-thousand quid.

          3. BobaFett

            Re: It's not too bad

            @Tom 38: My only reservation these days with paying cash, is the number of bloody fake £1 coins in circulation. Admittedly, I could be more careful checking my change but more often that not, I don't realise I've been given a fake until I try and buy something from the vending machine at work.

            Also as another poster pointed out, it can sometimes be excruciatingly painful when a cashier gets confused when you give them £5.34 to pay for an amount of £3.84 (expecting £1.50 in change). It should be as simple as counting the money I've given them, entering it into the till and waiting for the answer on the display.

          4. David Barrett

            Re: It's not too bad


            Until you get outside and realise that they gave you:

            a. Too little change.

            b. a mixture of £sterling and some ones lira left over from a holiday in the 80s that they managed to pass off as a pound coin earlier in the day.

            c. Coins that have been handled by a number of people, some of which (statistically) didnt wash their hands after their last wee/poo/fap) - Im not overly concerned about that level of cleanliness but really when you think about it thats minging.

    2. Allison Park

      Re: It's not too bad

      And I thought NFC for NO Friking Clue

  2. Richard 12 Silver badge

    Awooga!! Abject journalist fail alert!

    "Unlike RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags, which are powered up by the received radio signal, and can thus be read at extreme ranges by upping transmitted power, NFC devices are powered using an induction coil"

    RFID are powered by an induction coil.

    Passive NFC are powered by an induction coil.

    They are almost exactly the same, the only real difference is that N-mark compliant devices are a particular implementation of RFID, branded differently with a need to comply with a specific set of protocols, while RFID is a more generic class of technology.

    Congratulations on falling for the oldest marketing trick in the book, the wonderfully sneaky "Name Change"

    1. eJ2095

      Re: Awooga!! Abject journalist fail alert!

      Btw if u hAve a nfc fone on android. Search market place for nfc readers

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Awooga!! Abject journalist fail alert!

      I was under the impression that passive NFC could still power a processor in order to have active communications, whereas RFID is just a passive power it up and it sends you a number type of device. Also that the power which runs an NFC is from an induction coil in the reader (hence the short range), whereas the power which runs an RFID is from the radio signal, strictly speaking induction, but a bit different.

    3. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Re: Awooga!! Abject journalist fail alert!

      Yes, they're the same RF technology, but it's not a name change, any more than Television was a name-change of Radio. RFID is a proper subset of NFC; NFC adds additional applications.

      NFC devices can read, or become, RFID tags, but the RFID devices cannot deal with all types of NFC equipment.

      In any case, here's a cool video that visualises the "near-field" itself :

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "All that is perfectly possible without NFC of course"

    And there's your problem.

    1. Thomas 4

      One thought does spring to mind

      Oyster. That would be really handy to have as an NFC system. Granted, it wouldn't be a whole lot more faster than swiping with a card but it would save a lot of resources.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: One thought does spring to mind

        Actually it would be slower. 200ms slower, which according to London Transport means the gate not opening in time for an average-speed walker

        1. kwhitefoot

          The only thing that made me get new

          I use a contactless card on the bus every day. It certainly doesn't take two seconds to recognize that I have paid for a month of travel and tell me how many days I have left.

          But this is in Norway, perhaps it is better implemented here. (Not everything works well here either I do realize).

      2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Re: One thought does spring to mind

        Don't wish for it. The contactless systems I'm forced to used nominally requires a tap but of course being near field the response can happen at anywhere between a few centimetres or a few millimetres which can be incredibly disconcerting like a keyboard with random lag. I'd imagine that slows things down significantly.

  4. Chris Wilson

    The Orange San Diego is another UK NFC enabled phone. Unfortunately Orange don't seem to support Quick Tap on it. Pretty lame eh? .

  5. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    If I only had £10M..

    There is a *perfect* solution to the problem, which exists in 3 parts. The problem is that it takes about £10M to set up the global network to support it, but at that point you would be the first in something like 2 decades to actually *compete* with VISA and Mastercard. The problem you have is that those two (and AMEX) have built a global equipment infrastructure, which is hard to compete with unless you do the same.

    Unless you don't.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If I only had £10M..

      Where do you get the £10M number from? That sounds awfully cheap.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If I only had £10M..

      £10m wouldn't even buy and staff a data centre and since you would be a financial institution the laws in pretty much every country you operate in would require you have at least 2 data centres each of which must be capable of handling your entire financial business.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I still like

    the security of knowing that no-one can take my money without me physically inserting my card into a device. The idea of someone being able to charge me by my card being waved in the general vicinity of a reader is horrific from a security standpoint.

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Re: I still like

      That's the advantage of optical methods over radio based ones. But it requires more costly hardware if it is scanning QR codes.

      At least with optical if nobody can see the screen then nobody can scan it.

      1. David Barrett

        Re: I still like

        @Giles Jones --

        At least with optical if nobody can see the screen then nobody can scan it.

        I imagine that grabbing a screen shot of your QR code could be quite easy... at the simplest wouldn't it be trivial for a member of staff with ill intent to hide a small web cam near the scanner? At least NFC has some level of security.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I still like

      You should try the Oyster card system. If even London Transport, EDS and Fujitsu can make a form of NFC work, and work very well, then there's hope.

      The problem, as the article alludes to, is that when it comes to everyday payments with NFC, every c*** wants a cut, mostly undeserved. The evil duopoly already cream off exorbitant amounts from global tranactions. Take Mastercard, who made $2bn profits on less than $3bn of real assets, now there's a return we'd all like. Then you've got merchant fees, banking fees, the mobile networks hoping for a slice, mobe OS makers thinking they're due a cut.

      NFC will only happen if it is convenient and offers good value, and everybody involved seems to be intent on ensuring that it won't be either.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I still like

        Yeah, yeah, anyone in banking is evil.

        The 30 employee software company I work for made £100M in profit last year on assets of a couple of million quid. Does this make us evil, or does it mean that our business is built on rather more than just our physical assets, as Mastercard and Visa's is.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I still like

          "Yeah, yeah, anyone in banking is evil."

          Well, I think they've not come up smelling or roses over the past few years, have they? Or have you been hiding in a cave since 2006?

          "The 30 employee software company " I think you'll find that there's plenty of choice of most types of software. With payment networks, there's stuff all choice, and the costs to use are set purely at levels that originally made tons of money for the then owners (the banks), and then at a level to raise plenty of cash for the banks when Mastercard were floated. And Mastercard have been fined for anti-competitive practices and unlawful charging, which I'd guess your company haven't.

          But hey, if you want to believe the sun shines out of their fundament, don't let me stop you.

        2. Silver

          Re: I still like

          You made £100M more profit than Visa Europe did last year, since it's a non-profit organisation.

          Don't believe me?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I still like

        Oyster's RFID, not NFC

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I still like@ FatsBrannigan

          See the post above by Richard 12

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I still like

      Where would the money go? For someone to be an electronic pickpoicket, wandering round crowds, maxing out the money they can take from any card, they would need a Merchant account and merchant machine. This means that the banks know who they are, where they are, what their business model is and would be happy to send the Police round at the drop of a hat should there be any suggestion of fraud. They may get away with it for a very short time, but not for long and the amount of money made wouldn't outweigh the time to be served, once caught.

  7. Aleksander Kamenik
    Thumb Up


    There's a plan to enable NFC in Tallinn public transport. Instead of waving a card at the reader on the bus you wave your phone. Which I'd like, it remains to be seen whether they'll manage to implement it. I don't want another RFID card in my wallet interfering with the other cards.

    It be great if I could register my NFC phone for all the places where I have a card instead of a physical key to open doors. Home, home garage, work, work2, etc. I know the frequencies don't match though.

    Getting rid of the physical wallet altogether sounds good to me too.

    As for security, that's a technical problem. Let's hope it can be done with NFC. A confirmation on the phone for transactions would do it.

    And isn't NFC enabled on most smart phones these days, not just the S3, except for iphones? gsmarena found 133 phones with NFC: Choose NFC required and hit search.

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Re: ticketing

      There's still the issue of losing your phone or having it stolen, thus rending you without any method of paying someone and no method of ringing someone for help.

      Especially with how fast phone boxes are vanishing too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ticketing

        So, rather like losing a handbag, which contains phone, purse, keys, etc.

  8. Silverburn
    Black Helicopters


    Article could do with more information on native security of NFC, and security weaknesses?

  9. The Alpha Klutz

    Go the whole hog

    Near field? What about long field? Might as well just put a transponder in my hat, so I can wonder around taking any items I want from the shops, and you can just send me an invoice later. Why not...

  10. Ian Adams

    other UK NFC phones

    how about the HTC one X or the Samsung Galaxy SII NFC?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: other UK NFC phones

      There are in fact a plethora of handsets available in the UK that support the technology, which a simple search would have revealed. Fail.

      My Galaxy Nexus is one of them.


  11. Fred M

    Very poor article for the Reg

    Not the best researched article on The Register. As Richard12 points out, passive NFC is powered in exactly the same way as RFID because it *is* high frequency (13.56MHz) RFID - with comms happening in both directions. More basic RFID is 125kHz but works in much the same way.

    There are plenty of NFC enabled phones - my Galaxy Nexus being one obvious example. It worked fine with Google Wallet using the free pre-paid card but there was no way to associate a UK credit card with it.

    Also, a HUGE unnecessary chunk of the article talking about Apple when there's not really anything to say about Apple and NFC.

  12. Lloyd
    Thumb Down

    All very well and good but....

    I've had one on my debit card for about 5 years (at a guess) and I can never find a payment terminal that either accepts it or when it does accept it, works, even the ones at the Olympics (and you'd think Visa might have tried to push the technology a bit more at such a prime event) weren't working 50% of the time. In fact there's only one I know of that has 100% up time so far, and that's my local Costa, shame their staff are so slow.

  13. g.marconi

    Oh dear another "journalist" who couldn't be bothered to research the topic properly. There has been quite a choice of NFC equipped handsets in the UK for at least several months. Some manufacturers like Sony have more than one model, so does Nokia and Samsung, in fact just about the only comapny turnong its back on NFC is Apple - once again not ready for prime-time.

    Yes, RFID has been around for years and is essentially the same technology but it uses a low radio frequency (125KHz) which enables a longer reading-range. NFC uses a much higher frequency (13.56MHz) which has benefits such as preventing the two systems from interacting in any way, and the receiving distance is shorter which assists the security of a transaction.

    The technology is mature, applications are simple to write and thus plentiful - just look at the selection of Android apps as an example, and many consumers are eager to use the tachnology if only it would be made more available.

    What is holding it back is the various service companies fighting tooth and nail to get in on the act.The banks of course feel that anything to do with money is their god-given right, so do the credit-card companies. Now too the mobile service providers see an opportunity to influence and control their customers to an even greater degree and quite overlook the obvious point that shopping transactions are absolutely none of their business. Just the thought of permitting these providers to become involved in this should fill us all with fear - after all they do not have a great reputation for keeping consumers' accounts straight as it is, what will happen if they have some control over our credit-cards and/or bank accounts too?

    Now almost unnoticed in all this is that all these companies who are salivating over the thought of becoming involved and whose in-fighting is actually delaying the roll-out, are all expecting to be paid for handling our money. Who is going to pay them - the consumer? Surely not, we do not actually see the handling charges from the credit-card companies, we carefully seek out ATMs that do not charge us, so I hardly think we will be happy to accept new charges for the privilege of waving a phone at a terminal instead of a card !

  14. Phil 71


    "It's common to see NFC credit card receivers in sandwich shop chains, for example - the put them in to speed the throughput of hungry punters - by it's much less common to see them in use."

    So as a bank card holding NFC convert, my view as to why they aren't used, are a bit different to yours:

    a) Payment terminals don't look obviously different nor indicate "NFC here", you've often got to look around for a promo poster etc. etc.

    b) It's far to easy to do what you've done thousands of times before, insert card type pin. Its now so ingrained, that combined with a) it's too easy to use pin as normal.

    c) Loads of people don't seem to know they can, or how to.

    In short, it needs a machine that looks different, shouts "Hay, just tap your card on my screen", and maybe people will try using it.

    Otherwise people will just keep doing what they've always done, because it's what they've always done.

    1. Jay Holmes

      Re: Unknown

      And we all know people do not like change (excuse the shit pun!). For this to work as effectively as they want it to it is going to have to roll out the same way chip and pin was. Get everyone enabled then set a cut off date for chip and pin.

      1. Mattjimf

        Re: Unknown

        The problem with that is that it's designed at the moment only for transactions under £20, would you really want to buy a £20,000 car by a swipe, or more to the point, would you want a thief to buy a car with a swipe of your stolen card?

      2. TonyHoyle

        It's not really not liking change, it's not knowing what terminals support it, what the staff in the shop would do if you attempted to pay in that manner (they'd probably look at you condescendingly and explain you had to insert the card in the reader - how many minimum wage costa employees even know what NFC even is?).

        I'm told Costa does, but i don't go there because their sandwiches are shite. Never seen the symbol anywhere else... The local pub definately doesn't (their card reader still uses dialup).

        The card version isn't actually any quicker - Wave card over terminal/type pin is exactly the same as insert card/type pin. In theory fractions of a second quicker.

        Putting the cards on the phone could be a win except (a) the banks etc. can't agree on a standard that actually allows you to do it because they all want a cut, and (b) it means if you leave your phone somewhere you've also left all your credit cards.. and I don't trust the security of the average phone as far as I could throw it.

  15. Chad H.

    Is it too late?

    Honestly; when it comes to phone NFC payments, I think NFC is dead. It's been poised to break out how many times now, but with card operators, phone operators and the interbank networks refusing to all work together, it's never going to happen, and its going to be a hard sell I think pushing NFC over the marginal benefits it offers over swipe + pay, over no-new-hardware-required QR codes.

    The pairing thing is intreging, but will need someone who isn't apple to make it work, and I say this as an iPhone user. It's going to need someone who sells both phones, and regular home consumer electronics devices to provide the initial core of supplied devices. Sony's inability for its divisions rules them out. Apple don't make TVs, sterioes etc (although they do have some traction in AirPlay), but the best candidate to get that going has to be Samsung.

  16. Christian Berger

    Certainly a bad thing for anything security releated

    A normal chip card has to be inserted to have a contact. It's impossible to contact that card without my consent. Now imagine some malevolent person building NFC readers (e.g. card terminals) into park benches. It would be trivial for them to authenticate non-PIN transactions.

    And even with PINs it's a nightmare waiting to happen. Imagine kids putting an NFC reader into their back packs connected to a little computer (i.e. Raspberry PI) and writing a little script to constantly enter random PINs. Once they contact your card and are able to enter 3 wrong PINs you have a problem. Guessing wrong PINs is easy, and it's a prank many people can do.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Certainly a bad thing for anything security releated

      Q: Where does the money go?

      A: Into a merchant account.

      If you can't understand how this stops people stealing from the cards, you should stop commenting.

      As for the PINs, you have to establish a cryptographic exchange with the NFC chip, this is not something which is achievable with a standard reader and a RaspPI. Besides, even if you could enter the PIN wrongly in this manner (which you can't) and if it locked every application on the chip (I don't think it does), all you need to do is put it into an ATM to unlock it.

  17. Lau

    ha ha ha ha ha

    The anti-NFC guy from the Register has woken up after a two years long hibernation...

    Sadly, while some of the points he makes (on the marketing side) could be debatable (although could easily be dismissed as preposterous), he displays an obvious lack of knowledge about the technology itself, about the myriads of use cases associated to NFC, about ISO 14443 type A and B and Felica (The latter is an established methodology for payment in Japan since 2004), about the difference between the standardisation consortia, about the difference between the n-mark and teh ))) waves symbol, about EMVCo requirements, about the fact that the NFC Forum DOESN'T WORK ON PAYMENTS, AS "CARD EMULATION MODE" IS NOT A MANDATORY FEATURE OF A NFC FORUM CERTIFIED DEVICE, about the fact that the N-Mark is already an established and adopted symbol and can be found in lots of electronic devices (including any Android NFC enabled phones implementing ICS or JB), etc...

    Anyway, I personally find his article on NFC entertaining :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ha ha ha ha ha

      You must be the pro-NFC guy? Sincerely (really) can you point this NFC-agnostic to a compelling use case that would make my life better, even in a small way?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not completely useless

    As active type NFC's can charge suitably equipped devices.

    I noticed this little feature a while back, the Iphone 5 has NFC but its not obvious which type.

    I wonder if it would have enough energy to charge up a Bluetooth headset equipped with one of those ORB cells (organic radical battery, sort of a bast*rd child of a supercap and Li-ion) by being next to the phone or plugged into the headphone socket etc.

    That would be a great selling point, as NFC otherwise has few uses.

    Also another handy feature is scanning things like RFID chips, or active sensors.


  19. Richard 81

    "It's common to see NFC credit card receivers in sandwich shop chains"

    Is it? When you say common, do you mean common in the centre of London, or actually common?

  20. Sulphur Man


    This has to be the most ludicrous technology 'feature' Ive read in years

    "Tap two speakers together and they agree which will play the left channel of the stereo stream and which the right, all without the user ever touching a menu or ticking an option"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: cant....stop.....laughing

      Why is that funny? Seems pretty useful to me.

      1. jubtastic1

        Re: cant....stop.....laughing

        I didn't find it funny either, but thinking about it, can you imagine a scenario where you have two speakers that don't know which channel they're supposed to be playing? They'd have to be specially engineered to be that dumb just so you could fix them with your phone, if you're going to that extreme why not make them smart enough to figure it out without banging them together? How often is this 'two left shoes' problem likely to come up and who is the fucker responsible for this asshattery?

        Also, the whole tapping thing doesn't sit well with me, in my experience most people will quickly start hammering if the thing they tapped doesn't respond instantly, and impacts are bad, even for our new solid state gadgets, ever since they switched to solder that accumulates micro fractures and eventually fails from broken circuits.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: cant....stop.....laughing

          I think the point is that normally you'd only have a single speaker, if you get a second one you alert the other to the fact that you want to pair it with a tap and it negotiates which channel to use and also links to the phone at the same time. It seems like a pretty good use to me, not that I'm the sort of person who would use it, but that's besides the point.

  21. It'sa Mea... Mario

    "Apple folk can already use AirPlay to stream pictures and video to their Apple TV boxes."

    And music. Or just mirror the screen if desired.* And not just to Apple TV boxes, there are many non-Apple speaker systems, AV boxes and more that can receive Airplay. How many TVs have NFC?

    Although it might take 2 or 3 taps on the idevice screen to turn on Airplay, you do not need to get up and walk across the other side of the room to do it! The receivers just need to be on the same network as the iDevice, no real 'setup' required.

    *yes, yes, a 'newer' Apple device is required for mirroring, iPhone 4s, iPad2 or later

    And as for NFC payments, unlocking doors, etc how long will it take for the underworld to develop a cloning device? (I would not be surprised to hear that one already exists!)

    1. Graham 32

      Re: "Apple folk can already use AirPlay to stream pictures and video to their Apple TV boxes."

      I couldn't believe he used that as the first example of an interesting use of NFC. I touch my TV a few times a year (dusting, plugging in some gadget), the rest of the time it's controlled from the comfort of my sofa. Now he wants me to stand up, walk across the room, touch my phone to the TV, then go sit back down. How 1980s! And only the tap is NFC cos the rest of the work is going to need some other technology. Solution looking for a problem.

      1. Gavin King

        Re: "Apple folk can already use AirPlay to stream pictures and video to their Apple TV boxes."

        Just as a thought, I wonder if the receiver could be built into the remote: so that one only had to tap the remote for all of the negotiation business to occur.

        Don't have to leave the sofa, and don't have to fiddle with menus and the like.

  22. Adam T


    I do find it amusing that nobody's talking about the fact that NFC has one single glaring flaw: ANYBODY can use it. No PIN needed. And what happens if you tap with your card in your wallet, but you just happen to have several cards? Which card does the payment come from? Oh feck.

    Perhaps Apple are just biding their time until they can implement a way to verify that the person using it, is the person who owns the handset. Been any fingerprint scanning/Apple-related stories lately? Believe in coincidences?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Security

      Do you think that the designers have maybe thought of this? Or do you have such immense wisdom that it's only you?

      1. Richard 81

        Re: Security

        OK, so what solution did they come up with?

        They probably have thought of it, and maybe they've solved it. Then again, maybe they're so eager for us to buy into what they're trying to sell that they're hoping we won't think to ask such awkward questions.

        I find your lack of scepticism disturbing.

      2. Adam T

        Re: Security

        "Do you think that the designers have maybe thought of this? Or do you have such immense wisdom that it's only you?"

        The designers of what? NFC, or the equipment that uses it?

        The designers of NFC don't have to think of user security - they provide the means, not the solution.

        The designers of NFC debit cards clearly didn't think of it, or if they did they didn't deem it important enough to come up with a secure solution. I've used my NFC-enabled Barclays debit card once, and it didn't leave me feeling particularly comfortable. Convenient? Sure. Safe? Fuck no.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Security

          If you have more than one in a wallet, they just won't work, you have to remove them from the wallet to use them.

          As for not feeling safe, why? What was the problem? or was it just some nebulous conceptual "not safe" caused by thinking you know a more about the technology than you do and presuming that all the people who designed it know less than you do? I don't mean that to sound as harsh as it does, but generally the people I know who've had a problem with these cards know a bit about radio technology, but very little about the other elements, particularly the financial services side of the system.

          1. Adam T

            Re: Security

            "As for not feeling safe, why"

            Not safe as in anybody can use my card without having to use any authentication. I'm not assuming this is how all NFC services are implemented, indeed there are people in the comments saying they've had both experiences, but that wasn't my experience. Thus, it didn't feel safe/secure/good. The shame of it is that it's a really neat technology; all I can do is say how I felt about it - even if it was some daft assumption on my part, the fact is unless people (me being one) feel like they can trust a technology, it's never going to have an easy time getting into mass acceptance.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Security

              "...Not safe as in anybody can use my card without having to use any authentication..."

              No, they can't. The card asks for a PIN after a number of transactions, typically the chip profiles use and asks for that number much sooner if you trigger certain criteria. For example, if you use your card three times in half an hour, it's going to ask for the PIN (numbers made up), whereas if you use it once a week it'll take much longer to ask for the PIN. As for someone nicking your wallet, yes, they could use it a couple of times, but you'll get the money back from the bank. However they could have used your old pre-chip and pin cards for much larger amounts of money, just by forging your signature, many people didn't have an issue with those. Also, they'll certainly have your cash, if they get your wallet.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Security

                Actually, you get a clear indication that they know NFC is risky when you sign up for it: why do you think they limited the per-transaction value?

                Name me ONE other reason why a credit card company willingly and voluntarily restricts its ability to push you into debt, other than that they know full well that security on NFC is so seriously absent they have to restrict payment value.

                The most critical flaw of NFC is that it does away with the one barrier that stops abuse: demanding that a customer is present. The only reason your card only works in close proximity of readers is because the receiver in those readers is seriously crap. Use a better aerial and a better, low noise transceiver and you can pick cards up from quite a distance - they can talk a lot but that cannot change the physics of radio.

                Oh, and the PIN request? All you do is drop such a transaction when you're mass gathering, because they are tied to the CARD, not to the merchant. If you're grabbing NFC money, you typically only access the cards that pass (say, in a rucksack whilst walking down Oxford Street on a busy Saturday). Even when you come across the same card twice, by that time it will have rotated through the PIN request so you can take another shot.

                What's worse, exactly BECAUSE NFC limits transaction value, few will spot these smaller deductions on their bill. Make it look like a food company and it will take quite some time before someone catches up with you - in which case you've already banked what you grabbed.

                The problem with NFC is that it's always on, and is thus harder to control. In mobiles they could have tied it to the phone being unlocked - but didn't. So there is no way I will ever go near NFC. We need LESS card risk, not more.

  23. ifraser

    Narrow minded sentence

    Please, where do you get your info??

    "And there is serious money at stake. Right now there's only NFC-enabled phone in the UK, the Samsung Galaxy S III"

    This is a very narrow blinkered sentence to make considering Nokia, HTC and Blackberry also supply NFC enabled phones that are on the market already.

    I personally use NFC on my Blackberry Bold 9900 to switch options on and off in the house, car and bedroom and I am looking forward to using the NFC payments once the banks release the apps.

    1. David Gosnell

      Re: Narrow minded sentence

      According to GSMArena, there are 133 NFC-equipped models worldwide.

      Probably some duplicates and foreign-network only variants in there, but nevertheless...

      1. Toxteth O'Gravy

        Re: Narrow minded sentence

        Hmmm. Haven't checked 'em all out, but some of these don't mention NFC on their vendors' sites. Not sure there are a huge number of NFC phones out there. Lot of one-off experimentals, perhaps, but not too many mainstream ones.

  24. Steve Evans

    In my case it's not the lack of will on behalf of the shopper...

    "the tech is already embedded in millions of UK credit cards for pay-by-pat functionality, though despite the wide scale deployment shoppers are still reluctant to embrace the technology. It's common to see NFC credit card receivers in sandwich shop chains, for example"

    I've had such a credit card for over a year... It also does Oyster transactions for travel in London. Whilst it has seen excessive use on the tube and buses, I've yet to ever use the credit card side of the NFC. I guess I don't hang out in enough sandwich shops?

    1. Richard 81

      Re: In my case it's not the lack of will on behalf of the shopper...

      Also, which banks actually send out NFC credit cards, and for which accounts?

      1. Adam Comben

        Re: In my case it's not the lack of will on behalf of the shopper...

        I have a credit card with Barclaycard, and it's NFC enabled.

        I've used it in Subway three times, and the first two it didn't ask for anything - The third time, it did.

        McDonalds also seem to readily support them.. that's about all I've spotted round here.

        And as for security, Barclaycard offered me a free insert to slot my card into (Kind of like a mini pouch), to stop it being read through my wallet.

        To be honest, being read inside my wallet wouldn't be that much of an issue as you have to literally *touch* your card on the reader - a few inches above and it doesn't work. I'd probably be willing to bet it wouldn't scan through your wallet, even without one of these little pouches.... I'll try it :-)

      2. Toxteth O'Gravy

        Re: In my case it's not the lack of will on behalf of the shopper...

        Amazon/Bank of America cards have NFC support. But half the time I try to buy lunch with it, it doesn't get accepted, despite more than enough credit left on the card. Given up trying now, to be honest.

  25. Adam Comben

    Halifax do.....!

    Just noticed, my Halifax credit (Not debit...) card has one too, although I've never used it. Barclaycard also sent me a 'paytag' which I can attach to anything (Phone, ID card, etc). I wonder if you slid it behind a mobile phone case it would read through the plastic.... NFC on a Nokia 3310 anyone?!

  26. Bronek Kozicki

    WLAN authorization?

    Having spent 1 hour yesterday trying to find good combination of WiFi protocols, authorization schemes and frequencies among all my (not so old) devices and new ADSL router, I think it would be pretty cool just to "bonk" these devices together and let them work out most efficient combination themselves. Or at least communicate complex WPA2 password I invented instead of me typing it.

    On the other hand, since I spent most of that time trying to troubleshoot not-quite-working WPS, adding yet another automatic configuration would be perfect opportunity for firmware programmers to make things even worse ...

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The real reason

    The real reason why Apple has not implemented NFC; they want their cut. If Apple can't make any money off of NFC they won't put it in. Apple can make more using their passbook system than NFC and it gives Apple complete control. How many companies are going to tie the know with Apple when they are demanding a cut. I wouldn't be surprised if Apple wanted 30%.

  28. jason 7

    So I guess......

    ...had Apple decided to put NFC in the iPhone5 the tone of the article would have been -

    "Oh my god why isn't everyone using NFC??!!

    Instead as they didn't it's "well it's not worth bothering with then!"

    Am I just that cynical of the tame tech press?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NFC transactions use of your credit card are offline transactions.

    They are currently limited to £20 a go and you are allowed to spend upto £45 in total over a number of "goes" without entering your PIN. One you hit the £45 limit, the next time you try and use it in a contactless way it will ask you to chip and pin instead. The idea is that most people will probably still enter there PIN at some point before they get to the £45 limit

    These are all configurable values, but typical of the contactless cards out there today

    High Value Purchases (HVP) contactless is on the horizon which will require entry of a PIN - the idea is that this will be for NFC enabled phones and you enter your PIN in the phone when you waved or tapped the phone at the merchant reader

  30. PaulR79

    NFC = Not For Consumers?

    I thought it meant Not For Cuppertino..

    I'll let myself out, the apology flowers are already on the way.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aand the next application for NFC is..

    NFC condoms.

    "Tap to bonk" .. Literally :-P

    On the flip side, you could actually check whether the damned things were in date before you um, "installed" them.

    Thereby avoiding unwanted pregnancies, STIs, etc.

    Adding monoclonal antibody fluorescence based STI check to the Iphone via the onboard front camera, small patch, UV LED and NFC, driven off the headphone output would also be a useful feature.

    "STIs? There's an app for that"..

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