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Which Is Better: Bluetooth or NFC?

Learn the major differences between Near FIeld Communications (NFC) and bluetooth.

By
Eric Escobar,
April 14, 2016
Episode #216

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A few weeks ago, I received a question from a listener about the differences between NFC (Near Field Communication) and Bluetooth. This week, I hope to clear up any confusion between Bluetooth and NFC and highlights the benefits of each.

What Is Bluetooth?

I just did a whole episode on Bluetooth, which you can find here. If you’re just here for the high level comparison, though, Bluetooth is a technology that is meant for short range distances—typically around 30 ft at the max. It’s included in almost all phones now so that you can connect you phone to your car, headsets, speakers, and a whole host of other devices, so long as you are nearby.

Bluetooth was created way back in the 1990s and is incredibly popular because of the range of uses it has, such as file transfer and even geolocation. It’s a pretty solid technology and will be here for a very long time.

What Is NFC?

NFC is another type of communication that is meant for short range communication very quickly. Unlike Bluetooth, NFC has a short distance of 4cm. NFC uses an extremely small amount of power, and is great for payment apps (such as through Apple Pay and Google Wallet).

NFC is also extremely useful for reading information. For example, if you’re an Android phone user, you’ve probably seen the small NFC stickers that you can buy to program to your phone. With an Android device with NFC, you can touch your phone to a sticker and then your phone can perform whatever action you have it programmed to do.

You can do this using the two apps, Tasker and Trigger. Basically they are a one-stop shop for Android automation. I used to use these apps, along with my android phone, to program certain actions to happen when I touched my phone to a sticker. For example, I had one set up to open my podcast manager and start playing from a specific playlist. This was great when I was in the car because I just tapped my phone to a sticker and bam.

I had another one in the kitchen that would open Evernote to my grocery list so it was easy to add items to it. A lot of these little actions save steps and make multi action steps easy to do. In fact it’s what I miss most about switching from Android to the iPhone is the distinct lack of useful NFC.

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