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How to use NFC on Android: Mobile payments, tags, fast pairing, and more

Become an NFC master in no time!
November 28, 2023

The NFC hype isn’t what it once was, but it’s still a handy feature you should take advantage of or get to know. How does NFC work, and how do you use it? We’ll walk you through how to use it and everything else you need to know about it.


NFC stands for "Near Field Communication." It's a standard that allows two devices or accessories to communicate via radio frequencies in close proximity. NFC is mainly marketed as a contactless payment tool in the mobile scene, but it can also be used to automate actions with tags, or to link to devices such as monitors, headphones, cameras, and more.


Editor’s note: All instructions in this post were created using a Google Pixel 7 running Android 14. Remember that steps may differ depending on your smartphone and Android version.

Do you have NFC?

Sony Xperia 1 V rear cameras closeup cameras background
Harley Maranan / Android Authority

It’s now hard to find a phone without this feature, as it’s become a standard. You can even find it on most budget phones like the Moto G Stylus, but there are some ways to double-check if you aren’t sure.

Some phones made it more obvious, as this was a hot feature only some devices had. Some had NFC labeling, usually found somewhere in the back of the device. You would also see “Near Field Communication” printed on certain Samsung phones’ batteries, but nowadays, you almost never see the battery. Things have changed.

Sony is one of the very few manufacturers still labeling NFC capabilities, as you can see in the image above. You’ll see the “N” label on the back of some devices, the official symbol indicating that the device has Near Field Communication. The “N” also shows the exact location of the chip.

All that said, you can also skip all the hardware fiddling and check your phone’s settings.

How to find out if your Android phone has Near Field Communication:

  1. On your Android device, open the Settings.
  2. Select Connected devices.
  3. Tap on Connection preferences.
  4. You should see NFC options.
  5. If the option is there, the phone has the feature.

How to turn on NFC

If your device has NFC, you might need to activate the chip first. Sometimes, it comes dormant by default, so look into the settings to make sure.

How to activate NFC on Android:

  1. On your Android device, open the Settings app.
  2. Select Connected devices.
  3. Tap on Connection preferences.
  4. You should see the NFC option. Hit it.
  5. Toggle the Use NFC option on.

Android Beam is dead!

We haven’t talked about sharing photos, videos, contacts, and other files using NFC, and that’s because Android no longer supports this feature. The feature was called Android Beam and used multiple communication tools to transfer files.

Android Beam died with the release of Android 10, and has since been replaced by Nearby Share. This tool is more similar to Apple’s AirDrop. It can transfer files to devices within close proximity, entirely wirelessly. Nearby Share starts the connection using your location and Bluetooth. Depending on what you’re sharing, it will pick between Bluetooth, Bluetooth LE, WebRTC, Ultrawide Band, or Wi-Fi to share the file.

As you can see, NFC is no longer part of the equation, so you can’t officially use it to share files, photos, content, apps, and other files. This is sad, considering this was one of the coolest ways to utilize NFC. There was something magical about tapping phones to transfer files. You can use Nearby Share instead, though. Here’s how.

How to activate Nearby Share:

  1. On your Android device, open the Settings app.
  2. Select Connected devices.
  3. Tap on Connection preferences.
  4. Select Nearby Share.
  5. Toggle on Device visibility.

On older software versions, you may see the option to toggle Nearby Share on or off. If you see it, turn the option on.

How to use Nearby Share:

  1. Find the file, photo, or content you want to share.
  2. Tap on the Share button.
  3. Select Nearby Share.
  4. Your device will start looking for devices with Nearby Share activated. Select the one you want to send the file to. The receiver will need to accept the transfer.
  5. The file will be transferred. Hit Done.

Pay with your phone

No matter how common and how long the feature has been around, paying with your phone still makes us feel like we’re living in the future. This feature relies heavily on NFC communications, and it’s likely what most people have used it for since the death of Android Beam.

There are quite a few mobile payment solutions, with the most popular ones being Google Wallet, Google Pay, Samsung Wallet, and Samsung Pay. There’s also Apple Pay, but the service doesn’t work with Android devices.

To make payments with your phone, you first need to sign up for one of the payment methods available. Samsung Pay is only compatible with Samsung devices, while Google Pay works on handsets running Android 5.0 Lollipop and higher. You can start making payments at supported retailers when you set up the app and enter your payment details. If you need help setting these up, just click on the links in the last paragraph.

Using NFC tags

Android NFC Tag
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Besides mobile payments, using NFC tags is a great way to utilize this technology. You can use these to automate specific tasks when you tap on them with your smartphone’s NFC chip. It’s also possible to use tags to sign into a Wi-Fi network, obtain business information, control smart lights, access a website, and much more. You can get creative, too. Imagine walking into an office and tapping your phone on an NFC tag at the door. You can set this tag to unlock your smart lock, turn on the lights, activate the AC, turn Wi-Fi on, and start your smart coffee maker.

An NFC tag is an unpowered chip, small and thin enough to be embedded in posters, movie passes, business cards, medication bottles, stickers, wristbands, key fobs, pens, hang tags, and more. This means it’s easy to stick them around any business or living area.

You’ll need an NFC tag-writing app to set up the tags, such as the Trigger app. Once programmed, you can tap any NFC-enabled device on the tag and take advantage of its benefits. Trigger can interact with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Audio, display, alarms, calendars, social networks, navigation, Tasker tasks, etc.

Other random capabilities

HUAWEI MateView NFC wireless display - How to use NFC
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

NFC capabilities expand far beyond payments and tags. While you can’t use it to transfer files anymore, plenty of other electronics and devices take advantage of the low-powered, close-proximity standard. You can find NFC functionality in specific cameras, monitors, laptops, Bluetooth speakers, smart home appliances, business cards, and more.

Some examples of what you can do with NFC include starting a connection with a device, providing security credentials, programming settings, establishing connections, and more. For example, you commonly see NFC in Sony cameras, and it allows you to connect to your smartphone to transfer images quickly. Furthermore, monitors like the HUAWEI MateView use NFC to connect with smartphones for wireless projection.


NFC stands Near Field Communication.

NFC allows two devices, such as your phone and a payment terminal, to communicate with each other. The standard isn’t as powerful as other communication methods like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Still, it can start the process and request help from other communication tools available, including the internet.

No! NFC tags are very, very cheap. They usually cost anywhere between 30-60 cents per unit if you buy them in bulk. You can easily find a package with 50 NFC tags for about $15.

Smartphones and payment terminals are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of NFC-capable devices. Monitors, TVs, cameras, speakers, and many other smart home products use NFC for quick linking and triggering actions.

While tapping phones to transfer files was a nice party trick, that level of interaction isn’t necessary for transferring files. Nearby Share is entirely wireless and works just as well.