I recently upgraded my phone to a Samsung Galaxy
SIII. So far, seriously, this thing
is awesome. It’s fast, I love Android 4.0, the screen is super clear,
the camera is nice… serious win over my older Droid
One of the things Samsung seems to be pushing is the NFC (near field
abilities of the phone. They have these little NFC tags you can buy
that you can use to play with NFC. They have an Android app you can
to program the tags or use them to execute programs from tags read by
I figured I’d try out some of these TecTiles and see what it’s all
TecTiles are small, about an inch square, and are stickers. Here’s one
still on the backing paper:
They run roughly $3 each - you get them in a pack of 5 for about
sometimes you can find them a little cheaper.
To program them, you first open the TecTiles app.
From there, you can pick what you want the TecTile to do. You can choose
from “Settings & Apps” (have it change phone settings or launch an app);
“Phone & Text” (have the phone make a call, send a text, or add a
contact); “Location & Web” (do a Facebook or Foursquare check-in or
visit a web site); or “Social” (update Twitter or Facebook status,
connect on LinkedIn).
For this walkthrough, I’ll choose “Settings & Apps.” Once you do, you
get asked what sort of tag you want to make.
I chose “Change Phone Settings.” Then you get to choose which settings
you want to change.
You can select more than one setting at a time, but for now I just chose
to set my phone in Silent mode. The next screen gives you some options
about what exactly you want it to do.
In this case, I want the tag to set my phone into Silent mode. This is
something I might put on my desk at work so when I get in I can scan the
tile and have it in “work mode.” Once it’s all set, you’re ready to
program the TecTile.
You just hold the phone over the little TecTile sticker, magic happens,
and it’s programmed. You’ll notice there are options to “lock” the
TecTile so you can’t re-program it. If, for example, you put your
business contact info on the TecTile and stuck that on the front
register at your store, you’d lock the tile so no pranksters overwrite
it. There’s also an “allow multiple writes” option to allow you to
re-use the program across multiple TecTiles. (I was actually hoping this
option would allow me to make more complex programs by writing multiple
“tasks” to the same TecTile, but, alas, no.)
To use the TecTile, you just sit your phone next to it/on it. Depending
on what the TecTile is programmed to do, sometimes it brings up some
info directly, but generally it seems to do most actions through the
browser. For example, when you update Twitter status, it does it through
the browser inteface, not the Twitter app. Here’s the weird bit - in the
case here, where I’m setting my phone to silent mode, you still get an
alert that the browser is launching:
But when I click “OK,” the browser doesn’t come up - instead the TecTile
app takes over and notifies me my phone is going into Silent mode.
Then that screen disappears and I go on my merry way.
I liked that it was pretty simple to get working and seemed novel… but
I have to admit I’m a little disappointed. The list of available actions
right now is pretty small:
Settings & Apps
Change Phone Settings
- Alarm Time
- Alarm Switch
- Car Mode
- Night Mode
- Ringer Volume
- Music Volume
- Automatic Brightness
Launch an App
Join a WiFi Network
Show a Message
Phone & Text
- Make a Call
- Send a Text Message
- Share a Contact
- Start a Google Talk Conversation
Location & Web
- Show an Address or Location
- Foursquare Check In
- Facebook Check In
- Open a Web Page
- Update Facebook Status
- Facebook Like
- Tweet a Status
- Follow a Twitter User
- Connect on LinkedIn
I mean, that doesn’t look small, but the first thing I wanted to do was
set my phone in Vibrate mode since I use that at work, not Silent.
But… no luck. Then I thought it would be neat to do a Latitude
check-in since I use Latitude, not Facebook or Foursquare. Nope.
The “Send a Text Message” action doesn’t work right now, which is the
first one I actually tried (after not finding Vibrate mode or Latitude
check-in) but it seems they’re having problems with that. The most
recent update says it fixed some problem with sending messages, but it
doesn’t look fixed to me. (You scan the tile and then… back to the
home screen. Nothing.)
Another thing: You can’t do any complex actions. For example, if you
wanted a tile at work that turns your phone to Silent and then checks
in… nope. That’s two tiles, not one.
In the end, I don’t really feel ripped off or anything. I’m having fun
messing around with them, and I know I’m pretty early to the party on
this, so I have faith they’ll beef up the offering as time goes on.
However, from a practical standpoint, it doesn’t do all the stuff I’d
like it to.
On a final note, for a more “real world” type of scenario, check out
NameBump. These guys make NFC-enabled business
cards. Hand your card to a potential client, and they can scan it with
their phone to get your contact info in their phone instantly. That’s
pretty slick and seems to me a great use of NFC. You could do
something similar with TecTiles if you wanted - just program the TecTile
and stick it to your card. Or, if you’re at a trade show, stick it to
your vendor badge and hold it out for people to scan. I may have to do
this for the next conference I go to. Rather than exchange cards, “Here