NFC Vs Bluetooth: Everything You Need To Know
- 24 Jan, 2019
- What is NFC?
- How NFC works?
- Different forms of NFC
- What is NFC for?
- Disadvantages of NFC
- What is Bluetooth?
- How Bluetooth works?
- What Does Bluetooth Do?
- Downside of Bluetooth
- The similarities of NFC vs Bluetooth
- Difference between NFC and Bluetooth
- A Comparison table of NFC vs Bluetooth Specifications
- Benefits of NFC over Bluetooth
Wireless communication is the norm nowadays. Everything is wireless from internet connection over Wi-Fi routers to wireless data transfer and Near Field Communication (NFC). All of them can be achieved without the hassle of transfer error because of a wire being cut-down.
Let’s forget about the wireless transfer over the internet for a moment now as that’s the leading form of wireless communication nowadays. You can’t always rely on the internet all the time. That’s where Bluetooth and Near Field Communication (NFC) come in.
These are wireless communication technologies meant for short-range technologies and quite reliable too. In this article, you will get to know about NFC vs Bluetooth difference, understand these technologies a bit more, their capabilities and working mechanism. You will know how to use them whenever possible, as most of us forget that Bluetooth and NFC exist in our devices.
We tend to be so immersed in the “world of the internet” and always rely on WhatsApp or other social media services to send and receive data. Thus we ignore the simple yet effective Bluetooth or NFC that are as good or even better. So here is a closer look at these two technologies.
What is NFC?
For those of you who are not familiar with NFC meaning, it stands for Near-field communication. It is very similar to Bluetooth where it uses wireless technology to send and receive data. It is a newer technology than Bluetooth in smartphones. It uses radio waves to send data and receive them. All you need to do is take two devices that have NFC support and touch them.
Though it is newer than Bluetooth in terms of popularity, it uses an older form of technology called RFID (Radio-frequency identification). If you don’t know what RFID is, don’t worry. To put it in simple terms, it is a technology to transfer signal with the use of electromagnetic induction. RFID works only one way, as the receiving side just reads the data. NFC builds on that technology by allowing two-way transfer of data. This is also a very versatile technology. You can transfer information between two devices that are NFC enabled and also between NFC tags which are also termed as NFC chips.
How NFC works?
NFC technology is a fast, secure way of wireless communication as data is transferred within close proximity. The frequency range for transmission is around 13.5 MHz and data can be transferred at a maximum of 425 kilobits per second speed. That is pretty fast enough to send a few photos or text files.
In order to transfer data using NFC, the two devices should be at a range of 10cm max. NFC pairing of two devices is pretty quick when compared to “searching for a device” method found in Bluetooth technology.
Different forms of NFC
Earlier forms of NFC can be found in Android version 3 where Google introduced this feature to pair with devices by simply touching them without waiting for pairing devices.
And some Samsung devices notably the galaxy phones use a modified version of NFC called S beam, where they use it to link Wi-Fi between devices for faster file sharing. The advantage of this is that it has higher bandwidth around 300 Mb/s.
Google then introduced android beam with android version 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) which allows short-range transfer of videos, photos and other forms of data and later was improved.
Although it was successful for a while, it faded away as people found other alternatives and didn’t quite see this as a convenient mode of communication.
What is NFC for?
NFC can not only be used for data transfer and pairing Bluetooth devices but also for a lot of different applications.
- You can pay your bills using NFC, which can be instant. Thus it is an excellent tool for cashless transactions. Further, it is also highly secure.
- Other applications of this technology include opening doors in cars and or just doors in general, programmable tags and much more.
- The phones introduced into the market for the past couple of years have the NFC technology included in them.
We are only scratching the surface. Once it gains a lot of traction, it opens the door for the future of possibilities.
Disadvantages of NFC
Of course, NFC technology has its own drawbacks which include:
- If you want continuous data transfer, NFC is not going to make it happen. It is mainly for short data bursts that help read tags.
- It is an expensive technology. For companies to use it successfully plenty of money has to be spent on buying and maintaining the required equipment, installation of hardware, software and hiring professionals for the same. For instance, iPhone NFC reading capability was very much limited until the recent XS and XR models. You need a separate app or unlock your iPhone to read tags.
- In spite of NFC being more secure, when compared to card payments, it has its own risks like hacking of mobile phones. Unauthorized access via hacking can make the system insecure and vulnerable.
- Although many of the current tablets and smartphones use NFC technology, not many retailers and businesses are ready to adopt it because of the cost factor and also possible security issues.
What is Bluetooth?
Bluetooth, unlike its name, has nothing to do with the color of your tooth or your tooth in general. Instead, it is a wireless technology used for data transmission over short distances using short wavelength ultra-high frequency radio waves. It is one of the earlier forms of wireless data transmission before NFC and before the internet.
Designed particularly for mobile devices, the technology involves the transmission of signals of low power of about 1 milliwatt. This low power prevents interfering with the signals emitted by other wireless gadgets present in its range.
The name Bluetooth didn’t come up until 1997 when Jim Kardach gained inspiration from the book “The long Ship” by Frans G. Bengtsson and proposed the word after the Scandinavian king “Bluetooth” who united the Danish tribes.
How Bluetooth works?
One of the reasons for Bluetooth not being used by many is because they do not know how to use Bluetooth. It takes the form of master and slave where there are one master device and up to 7 slave devices. The master device sends the data and the slaves receive them.
Any device that has Bluetooth in it can connect with any other device with Bluetooth, as it is not restricted to a single platform. It transmits in ISM and bandwidth is between 2402 and 2483 MHZ and the irony is that it is completely colorless.
What Does Bluetooth Do?
Unlike NFC, Bluetooth is a very popular and well-known form of communication with multiple applications.
- It is seen in almost all devices from laptops and smartphones to gaming equipment and speakers.
- Bluetooth headsets offer a hands-free solution for mobile communication. When talking about NFC vs Bluetooth audio and NFC vs Bluetooth headphones, Bluetooth delivers high-quality sound, comfort, and style.
- The technology is also useful in communications over a short-range occurring in embedded systems.
- Interestingly, sharing photos through Bluetooth connection will retain a lot more clarity than through social media.
- Its low consumption of power makes it perfect for applications and devices that are powered by the battery.
Downside of Bluetooth
Just like NFC, Bluetooth too has its own downsides. Let us look at them:
- The low strength of the signals prevents transmission over longer distances which limit the communication range for the exchange of data using the Bluetooth technology.
- The low strength also means the data transfer is very slow. Even with the fastest Bluetooth technology you can find now, the transfer is not anywhere near to what you can get with a USB or Wi-Fi.
- Even if Bluetooth is energy efficient it drains your phone’s battery as it scans for available signals and identifies devices that it can connect your device with. So when not needed, you have to turn off your Bluetooth, if you want to save battery life.
- Security risk is another unavoidable drawback in Bluetooth. Hackers can easily gain entry into your device via your Bluetooth connection, even if the hacker needs to be near enough for staging the hacking successfully.
The similarities of NFC vs Bluetooth
- Both NFC and Bluetooth are technologies that help in communication and data transfer.
- While the speed, efficiency and method used by the two technologies differ they are meant for better communication and information transfer over very short distances.
- The two are wireless forms of communication.
Difference between NFC and Bluetooth
Let us move on to Bluetooth vs NFC to know the real difference and the real player!
#1- Operating Range (Distance)
NFC has a very close range of about 10cm. So, you can’t just move around your phone freely during data transfer and pairing. While on the other hand, Bluetooth has a significantly better range of about 5-10 meters. As the range is short in NFC, it is not prone to interference in transmission.
#2- Power Consumption
NFC uses less power when compared to Bluetooth and the only time when it requires more power than Bluetooth is when it needs to power a passive device, which is not powered (like a programmable tag).
The manual setup required by Bluetooth to pair devices can be tedious at times. NFC pairing vs Bluetooth is fast and hassle-free, but you need to be very close to use it. Sometimes, Bluetooth may fail to connect or pair due to some technical glitches.
NFC is more secure than Bluetooth simply because of the close range requirement of the said technology. As you need your phones to be in contact with each other, there will be almost no interference and your data will be safely transferred.
#5- Speed of Data Transfer
With regards to NFC vs Bluetooth speed, NFC pairing is faster than Bluetooth pairing. However, the actual transfer rate is much slower than Bluetooth. This makes NFC less reliable when transferring larger files. NFC is useful when you need to share a text file or a contact detail. For videos and other larger files, Bluetooth is the way to go.
A Comparison table of NFC vs Bluetooth Specifications
Benefits of NFC over Bluetooth
Bluetooth requires you to pair your device before sharing files or other transmissions. Imagine if you want to pay through Bluetooth and you are required to pair your devices to pay. Unfortunately, the pairing being unsuccessful, you keep on trying. It obviously will take time.
Now, if another person wants to make a transaction and your phone is still paired, you might get accidentally charged. NFC doesn’t have this problem and due to the reason I mentioned above, it is more secure than Bluetooth.
Another advantage that NFC has over Bluetooth technology is the hassle-free connection approach it uses. In case of Bluetooth, you have to turn the feature on, find a compatible device, and then pair the two before you can start using it. In NFC, you need to just bring the devices within the stipulated range and viola…your communication occurs instantly.
And, unlike Bluetooth, which is not compatible with RFID, NFC can work with RFID passive tags such as those used on pet dogs. When used properly, you can easily read a lost dog’s ID tag and find its owner with your smartphone.
Both NFC and Bluetooth are wireless means of communication and draw a lot of similarities. Bluetooth is more reliable than NFC and more devices support Bluetooth. And NFC provides more secure transmission and faster pairing.
But when it comes to NFC vs Bluetooth confrontation, you should understand that both are meant for use in a different type of environment. While NFC is ideal for data transfer over short-range Bluetooth is more of a long-range transfer technology.
Fortunately, these two technologies need not butt heads always. Instead, they can work together for better connectivity. NFC can connect devices quickly and sent the signal to the Bluetooth enabling the device owner to move more distance without fear of the connection being cut.
The Bluetooth Low Energy technology which is a recent upgrade (although it was first introduced in 2004) focuses on low consumption of power that is lesser than NFC. And, since technology is all about improvement and exploring new horizons, tweaking of the two technologies further can enable eliminating the obvious drawbacks and turn these two into powerful communication and transfer tools. Do share your thoughts on which technology you think will dominate in future in the NFC vs Bluetooth tussle?