Android News

Android 2.3.3 update takes NFC up another notch

February 9, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka

Android OS

The Nexus S

The Nexus S launched with near-field communication support, but only for reading – not writing. An update to the Android 2.3.3 platform extends the capabilities of NFC on Android, including the ability to send information and add support to more apps.

Android SDK Tech Lead Xavier Ducrohet posted to the dev blog that Android now has an NFC read/write API that developers can include in their apps, gives “advanced intent” dispatching for control over when NFC tags are launched, and limited support for peer-to-peer connections.

You’re probably wondering what the heck all of this means, so let’s take a more simplified look at each feature since none of us are developers.

  • NFC reader/writer API allows developers to send tags. So a developer could make an app that allows you to beam your payment info to a nearby receiver or quickly board a train by swiping your phone centimeters from a subway station ticket rail. (Obviously, this requires support from merchants and transit systems.)
  • Advanced intent gives developers more control over when their app will open NFC tags. I had to turn to staff writer Chris Smith, who actually knows a thing or two about coding, to get more information. This is my best understanding of what he explained:

    Android previously opened NFC tags with one intent rather than the four intents now availabe. When an NFC-capable app is open and an NFC tag is read, Google now lets that app decide how it wants to act on the tag. So let’s say you have VEVO installed on your phone to watch music videos. If a CD jacket has an NFC tag for a music video link, instead of Android sending out a message to see which app wants to handle the tag (browser or YouTube app), the phone will let the foreground app (VEVO) act on it.

  • Peer-to-peer is an obvious pairing of devices that both have NFC capabilities. This will allow two people with NFC phones to exchange data – say a photo you just took or contact cards – by placing their phones in close-proximity and activating the P2P mode.