NFC or Near Field Communication is a standard feature on most recent phones, even so, its use outside of Asia has been limited. Pairing and file sharing are probably the most common usage scenarios, but even in those cases its use is limited, while NFC-based payment systems in Western countries hasn’t taken of like many had hoped and its use is even more of a rarity.What if NFC could be used for a more practical, everyday use? That’s exactly the purpose of NFC tags or stickers which can be programmed, placed just about anywhere and automate several mobile tasks at the same time.
Samsung’s NFC sticker tags, called TecTiles, come in two version: the original MIFARE Classic 1K-based TecTiles and the recently launched NFC Forum Standard-compliant TechTiles 2. The fact that the original TecTiles are MIFARE-based, means that only devices with an NXP NFC controller onboard, like the Galaxy S III and Note II, can read and write to these tags. This makes Samsung’s own Galaxy S4 incompatible with the original stickers, since it uses a Broadcom NFC chip, which doesn’t support MIFARE. Luckily for Galaxy Note II and Galaxy S III users, their devices should be able to work with both the original and the newer TecTiles 2.
In this review we’ll be focusing on the original TecTiles which cost about $14 to $19 (Euros or Pounds, depending on where you live) and offers 1024 bytes of data storage out of which 752 bytes are actually available to the user. This doesn’t sound like much, but in order to perform multiple and complex task the NFC sticker doesn’t need lot of data. The 752 bytes of data available should be more than enough to perform a complex series of tasks with unused dated to spare. At first the tags seem very expensive, considering you’re paying for something that basically looks like a sticker. But once you realize that there’s a lot of technology and even storage stuffed into a paper-thin package it becomes clear that you do get what you pay for. It includes 5 stickers and come sealed in an enclosure that’s meant to prevent any data being read or written to stickers while they’re in the packa
The tags themselves look very nondescript because they do look like any normal sticker and to the untrained eye they will appear to be promo stickers from Samsung with the “TecTiles” logo on the front. They’re literally paper thin as you might expect, except for a slightly raised area right in the middle of the tag. On the back it has an adhesive material which allows them to stick on to just about any surface. The second clue that these aren’t just any sticker can be found on the back: a strange circular metallic pattern with a raised area in the center revealsits true nature and is what’s needed to make the NFC magic happen. The front is made of a glossy and very durable material that should protect the components from the elements.
It’s this simplicity and light weight that makes TecTiles practical. The idea is to stick them at key location and program them to perform the tasks you want. The tiles come pre-programmed to open a link to download the official Samsung TecTiles app apk file or Android installation file. This is a dated 0.96 version and should be avoided. You can also simply download the US version from the Google Play store by going here. Strangely, this US and Canada version is currently at version 3.0.12, while the global version, which can be found here, is at version 1.1.8. We’re still puzzled by the fact that Samsung decided a special version of the app for the US and Canada. This is even more puzzling when you consider the fact that the US version has many more features and a new UI lay-out, while the international version is outdated with less feratures. But trust us, you will want to stay away from the official app as it’s very limited to what you can. While it can perform many basic tasks, it simply fails when it comes when you your smartphone to perform several complex taks. Our favorite, NFC Task Launcher, offers many more options and is simply a better app for the job.
So how useful are they? Let’s take for example the tile I placed next to my key holder right next to my front door. When I’m home I always use Wi-Fi and usually turn off mobile data and Bluetooth and set my device to the “Normal” profile. But when I go out, I use mobile data and because I use Bluetooth headphones I always turn Bluetooth on and set my phone to silent. Using NFC Task Launcher I’ve programmed this tile to toggle between “leaving home” and “coming home.” Before I leave, I simply hold my device in front of the tag and it automatically turns Wi-Fi off, turns Bluetooth on and sets my profile to “Silent” mode. When I get back I repeat this step and the phone turns Bluetooth off, connects to Wi-Fi and turns the “Silent” mode off. Normally, all of these steps would require several steps and with these sticker you simply hold the device in front of the tag. I also have another sticker next to my bed that ensures that my device goes to “Silent” mode and sets an alarm at 7:30AM, while in the morning placing my phone in front of the same tags turns of “Silent” mode and starts my favorite streaming radio. As I’m using them I’m thinking of more complex and creative way to use them and because they can be erased, you can always write new tasks to the tags. There aren’t any negative points I can think of, as a result, Samsung’s TecTiles gets a 10 out of 10.