The NFC feature on smartphones is widely applicable in the contactless payment domain. To work with contactless payments in this way, a user just needs to install the appropriate software on a handset.
In this article, we will consider the major NFC payment apps, including the possibilities they offer and their pros and cons.
What Solutions Does NFC Bring to Mobile Apps?
The ‘NFC’ abbreviation stands for ‘Near Field Communication’. This is the technology for wireless data transferring at short distance: no more than 10 centimeters. The data from objects is read by means of a radio signal.
One should note that the NFC data transfer rate is relatively low, and the volume of data is small. Still, with NFC-supported apps, many daily activities (from file exchange to purchases) became much simpler than before.
NFC Mobile Payment Apps
As we said earlier, contactless payments (purchases with digital wallets) are the most demanded and actual NFC application area. They are fast and convenient; to make a payment, users don’t have to give a card to a cashier and enter a PIN code. Instead, they just need to touch a terminal by a smartphone, and the appropriate payment data will be transferred automatically.
Next, we will explore the major NFC payment apps on Android and iOS.
NFC Payment Apps for Android Devices
The year 2015 witnessed the introduction of the Android Pay NFC-based Android app. Android 4.4 became the first version to support this NFC app for Android (and hence Android Pay). By the end of 2017, Android Pay covered nearly 20 countries.
In February 2018, Android Pay merged with Google Wallet and became known as Google Pay.
Currently, the key features of Google Pay include:
- Bank card emulation (Visa, MasterCard);
- Loyalty card registration;
- Users can purchase apps, services, and subscriptions on Play Market;
- Contactless payments in supermarkets, department stores, gas stations, cafés, and restaurants.
- Convenient multilingual interface;
- Fast payment processing;
- Free installation;
- ‘Firmwared’ devices are not supported (for security purposes);
- Instacart, Fanbdango, and HughryHouse service support (in particular countries);
- The app doesn’t transfer payment details to terminals;
- Google server independently generates payment keys. Then, the specialized tokenization services process the generated keys;
- Smartwatch support.
- A limited number of supported contactless terminals;
- A limited list of local partner banks;
- Limited payment sums.
The NFC payment service by Samsung was launched in 2015 specifically for the Samsung devices (the same move as Apple did by providing its specialized iPhone NFC app). The service works on all the recent Samsung models starting from Samsung Galaxy Note 5.
Samsung Pay provides the following top features:
- Payment card registration;
- Quick NFC Scanning;
- Loyalty package loading;
- Transport card payments;
- Payments in retail outlets;
- Online payments.
- Thanks to the magnetic strip emulation feature, users can work with both contact and contactless terminals;
- Data protection with triple authentication: graphic key, fingerprint, and eye scan;
- Participation in the ‘Samsung Rewards’ events;
- Tokenization (occidental key generation) via Samsung Knox.
- The app is compatible with a limited number of Samsung devices;
- A limited number of supported banks and payment systems;
- A small number of countries that support the service.
NFC Payment App for iPhone Devices
In 2014, Apple released the Apple Pay app. Over the time of the app’s existence, the developers have been constantly improving it. Meanwhile, the number of iPhone devices with NFC has been steadily growing.
Apple Pay works on iPhone devices starting from iPhone 5/5s and later. Currently, the system is available in more than 30 countries.
Among the most important features, one might highlight the following:
- Payments in both brick-and-mortar and online stores;
- Users can update the payment accounts of their friends and relatives (currently supported only in the US);
- Public transport payments;
- Work with NFC tags;
- Third-party hardware control (automobiles, etc.).
- Intuitive UI;
- No extra fees;
- High security: Touch ID, Face ID, password;
- Apple Watch support;
- Personal data is not transferred to terminals.
- Only iOS devices are supported;
- The limited number of partner banks;
- The system works only with contactless terminals.
NFC without App: Is it Possible?
Lastly, we’d like to point out that NFC is not an independent data transfer medium. Rather, it’s a kind of a command tool that manages data exchange through a wireless connection.
More specifically, NFC ‘gives a command’ to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to turn on. The connection between devices is established almost instantly. Thus, the NFC module ‘reveals’ itself only in the appropriate software environment.