BB10 How-To: Near Field Communications

All BlackBerry 10 handsets (as well as smartphones made by other manufacturers) are equipped with NFC capability – but what exactly is NFC and how can it be used?

At its simplest, NFC (or Near Field Communication) is just another method of transferring data over short distances (typically up to 10cm) in a similar way to how Bluetooth works. Unlike Bluetooth however, NFC doesn’t require devices to be paired for it to work, and it only uses power when information is transferred.

Most people know of NFC from Contactless Payments on Credit Cards (or as a payment method for mobile devices) but it can be used for so much more – sharing contact details, images and other files between devices and communicating with NFC tags.

How to share files with NFC

Sharing files via NFC on a BlackBerry 10 device is simple – Firstly, select the file you wish to share by pressing and holding on its icon to bring up the context menu.

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Tap “Share” to bring up the Share Menu. This will show your most-used Share targets, and below a list of all possible targets.

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Select NFC from the list and your BlackBerry 10 device will show an animation of how to use NFC on your BlackBerry – just hold it near another NFC-enabled device (If your NFC connection is turned off, BlackBerry 10 will ask if you want to enable it before sharing).

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Simply tap the devices together and a confirmation window will pop up on the receiving device. Tap “Yes” to continue, and the file will be copied over.

More uses for NFC

As mentioned earlier, NFC can be used for more than just transferring files. By combining the NFC reader in your BlackBerry 10 device with NFC tags, you can unlock a lot more functionality, and the good news is you can do it without the need to download an app – but more on that in a while!

In order to unlock the full capabilities of your phone’s NFC ability, you will need to purchase some NFC tags. These are available from Amazon and other online stores – before you purchase, be sure to check the information for the item. It’s best to buy tags with the largest storage you can afford – at the time of writing, 888 bytes (yes, bytes!) was the largest we could find. Once you have your NFC tags, you can get started.

Smart Tags

Before you continue, if you have an alarm set, disable it and make a note of which alarm it was (if you have more than one). The reason for this will become apparent in short order.

On BlackBerry 10’s homescreen, there is an icon named Smart Tags. This is the key to unlocking your BlackBerry 10 device’s NFC potential.

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Before you can use your NFC tags, you need to program them. This isn’t as daunting as it seems, however. Simply tap on “Create” on the Action Bar, and you will be presented with a list of potential actions.

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As you can see from the screenshot above, there are a large number of different things you can program your NFC tags to do. Take your time to scroll through the list to see the various options and what each does, then tap on “Smart Triggers”.
We’re going to program an NFC tag to change some settings on your BlackBerry 10 device. The Select Actions screen details each of the various options:

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For now, tap on “Flight Mode”. You will notice that some of the options have disappeared. Don’t panic, this is completely normal! Now tap “Alarm Clocks”, then “Add”. On the next screen, you will be able to select which alarms you wish to control; choose the one you disabled earlier, tapping in the box marked “Do Nothing” to display a drop-down menu. This allows you to choose to turn the selected alarm to On, Off or Toggle. This last setting means that tapping your phone to the NFC tag once will activate the alarm (if enabled), tapping again will disable the alarm.
Set your alarm(s) to “Toggle” for now, then tap “Save”. You can also add other actions to your NFC tag (up to its writable capacity of course) if you so wish.
On the next screen, you’ll see a summary of your NFC tag’s profile. Notice the “Size: ” statistic in the lower left corner – if this is bigger than your NFC tag’s writable capacity, you will not be able to use that profile and will have to start again.

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If the Size is less than your NFC writable capacity, Tap “Write to NFC Tag”.

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Now hold your BlackBerry 10 device against your NFC Tag, and voil√°! – Your NFC tag is now programmed!

Congratulations!

To test your NFC tag, swipe up to minimise Smart Tags to an Active Frame and hold your BlackBerry 10 device against your NFC tag.

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To use this tag in future without the alert appearing, tap the empty checkbox then “Allow”.

If you wish to reuse your NFC tag after you have programmed it, you can simply create a new profile, apply it to the NFC tag and Smart Tags will simply overwrite the NFC tag’s profile. If you wish to prevent this from happening, you can choose “Lock NFC Tag” from the Actions Menu, but beware – once you lock an NFC tag, you cannot unlock it again.

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Hopefully, this has given you an insight into what NFC can do – the easiest (and best) way to learn more is by trying, so explore Smart Tags and see what you can do with the rest of your NFC tags!!

Jon Hunnings

(Step-)father & husband. I code directly on my #BlackBerry devices, in between blogs! Contact me via Twitter: @BrizBerryDevs or via email: brizberrydevs@utbblogs.com

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