nfc-991 I am an early adopter when it comes to some technology, very notably my smartphone in the last 2 itterations.  I got the HTC Surround on the first Windows Phone 7 release day, and I got my new Nokia Lumia 920 also on the Windows Phone 8 release day.

My husband, not so much. You could say he has more patience than I. You could also say he simply isn’t as … obsessed? in to? … smartphones as I. Right after Thanksgiving, I’d heard that Amazon was selling the Lumia 920s for a penny! Well, THAT should excite him, I figured. After we went through the hoops, the truth came out that the $0.01 price was for new AT&T accounts; BUT they were selling to upgraders for $19.99. That was better than the $79.99 deal I got, and better than the $49.99 deal we’d heard about (and were looking for) that ended up being only in some Western US states. Amazon only had the black, and it was backordered, but heck! $20? He went ahead and ordered it.

They’d given him a ship date of early January. Well, he could wait. We were surprised, then, when he got a shipped notification on Monday, December 3. It arrived late Wednesday, December 5.

As he was setting it up, I thought, “Hey! Let’s give the NFC a test.” Here’s what we found:

First I decided to share a photo of our son. We both turned on “tap+send” in the Settings. I went to Photos, selected the photo, selected the menu (“…”), selected Share, then Tap+Send. Suddenly I got a “You need to turn Bluetooth on” message?  Say what? This is the not-so-obvious part of all this, and really the only jarring issue.

I’ve got one of the charging plates, and it doesn’t need BT on. I went to How Stuff Works to read up on NFC and BT, and basically what I got out of it is that both are radio-frequency standards. BT has a range of about 10 meters (32 feet for those of us on the Imperial standard), while NFC has a range of a mere 10 centimeters.  All I can figure is that BT must have a faster transfer rate, and so is better to use to transfer files from device to device. (I didn’t think about that until today, when we’re both at work. I will test with just BT on and NFC off tonight.) So the best I can guess at the moment is that the Lumia is using NFC to give the commands, and BT to transfer the file.

Anyway, back to the experiment. Once we turned BT on, and initiated the transfer, we held our devices back-to-back (that’s where the NFC chip on the 920 is – near the camera). My husband got a “Someone is trying to share something with you. Accept/Ignore?” message, choose Accept, and voila! Success!

Next up: music. The procedure is the same for photos. You can sent individual songs, but not albums. They’re probably too large. At first he couldn’t see the album information (the picture), but after backing out of the Music hub and going back in to the song, it was there.

Last up was sharing a contact. This proved to have a couple more steps. The sender chooses a contact, but NOT a Facebook-only one (those can’t be shared, and frankly I’m glad of that). Go to the menu, share contact, then the contact screen seems to basically refresh, except that at the bottom you have a check bubble to confirm this is the contact you want to share. Select the check mark, then pair up the devices. The receiver gets a notification, Accepts, then has to select the Save icon at the bottom of their screen to save the contact to their contact list.

So Tap+Send isn’t quite as straightforward as it is advertised to be, but it’s still a handy thing to have. I’m still at a bit of a loss as to why it needs to be paired with BT: why not just transfer data over BT alone? Maybe a more technically-knowledgeable reader can answer.


  1. There is a reason for this, I’ll try to explain based on my knowledge. NFC is what it is…ie Near Field which means the devices need to be around 1 to 2 inches apart to stay connected, which when transferring a 5 MB song can be annoying to hold the phones together. Enter Bluetooth, with a longer 10 to 30 foot range it can transfer the same amount of data, sometimes faster depending on the chips used, but you don’t have to hold your phones next to each other. However, as part of the Bluetooth requirements you must pair devices before transferring data. So returning back to NFC, the NFC process handles the pairing and much simpler that using the BT pair process.

    So ultimately, the NFC back-to-back process pairs the phones for you, using Bluetooth to then transfer the data so you don’t have to keep your phones next to each other.

  2. Hmm. So, maybe, once we initiate the transfer, we can then move the devices apart? But we still had to connect them via Bluetooth as a second step. Why not just do it that way to begin with? Or am I still missing something? I am NOT a hardware person :)

  3. Yes, once the transfer starts you can move the phones away from each other, though probably good to stay within 10 feet. You can share via Bluetooth to start, but that means pairing the device to share, which is a couple extra steps vs tap+share which uses the NFC chip to create the pairing and the only user interaction required is touching the phones together for a second and the receiver agreeing to accept the transfer.

  4. Aha, okay I think I’ve got it. I might try that experiment later tonight, just to see what the extra steps are. Thanks!

  5. But Smitty, after Marti and hubby are BT paired the first time, can’ t Marti simple send the photo via BT and while hubby is sitting in the recliner across the room, he can tap accept to receive the BT transfer. Seems easier to me than having to tap phones together.

    Now if NFC automatically activated BT on both devices and did the pairing, that would be something. And unless every device in the World handles NFC transfers in exactly the same way (as BT does when it made available on a phone) it’s going to be a proprietary mess.

    • Jim, you would assume so, but from testing this it looks like the tap+send method pairs then forgets automagically.

      I’m a business analyst so I think of it in use cases and scenarios as to why they made this feature. To me, the use case for Tap+Send isn’t 2 people who live together, it’s for the 2 people who don’t. It’s for when you meet someone at a party and want to share a cool song with them, or an extended family member who wants to share a picture of their new baby with you, or the business meeting and you need to send your contact info to someone quickly. In those cases, going through the BT pair process is more cumbersome and not as fast as using the tap+send function.

  6. NFC is for the command and Bluetooth does the transfer, at least it is on the NL920. I imagine in the future, Apps can be developed to speed the transfer of certain files or file sizes. I’m curious how other phones NFC transfers work, my guess is the same process. A faster processer would help in speed. Speaking of speed, WOW USB 3.0 is an improvement.

    NFC commands is a cool thing in itself.I just bought some tags and plan on experimenting with it.

    Has anybody used NFC with another device?

  7. Yes, NFC tap and send is the handshake between 2 phones that have not been BT paired to create a quick local network over BT to transfer data. My wife and I have tried this on our NL 920s and it works great. Additionally the commands over NFC have a standard and can work on android as well. NFC is also useful for quick data transfers from passive tags similar to QR codes for URL transfers but much easier. I am planning to encode a few to trigger deep links into apps on win phone like settings menu.

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