Samsung really wants you to use NFC. They launched these TecTile NFC tags alongside the Galaxy S III, and they’re already updating the app in Google Play to be compatible with the new Holiday flagship, Galaxy Note II.
But it’s more difficult to explain than tap-to-share. Tap, share, done. It’s easy. That’s why S Beam, as it were, is all over Samsung’s new commercials.
TecTiles, to the novice smartphone user, mean nothing. But they can actually do more useful things than S Beam. And they don’t depend on a world full of Galaxy S III owners. Essentially, TecTiles are little tags that automate your phone when you tap it against the tag.
So, let’s say you want the ringer on loud and WiFi when you’re at home, but want your WiFi off, Bluetooth on, and ringer on silent when you’re at work. You can program a tag for your desk and a tag for your home coffee table that changes those settings for you instantly. Even better, you can set certain profiles for each tag so that various users can have different actions associated with the same tag.
It sounds complicated, but the app makes it really simple.
Retailers can do the same thing by placing a TecTile on a door or bulletin board, allowing users to download content, check in on foursquare or Facebook, or send a tweet.
The launch of version 3.0, with the ability to save TecTile programs, create private ones, and program multiple actions to a TecTile, should only make the tags that much more useful.
But Samsung’s NFC is much bigger than these two phones, and it’s much bigger than TecTiles or any other tap-to-share feature. You’ve seen the commercials, where two Galaxy S III owners tap their phones to share a playlist, becoming the envy of every Nancy and Sally in line for the iPhone 5.
The only problem is that no one actually does that. I can’t find many trustworthy usage statistics on NFC (which isn’t a good sign), but even if I ask around to my geeky tech friends the answer is the same. And it’s on a lot of phones. From Samsung alone, you have almost a dozen smartphones with NFC capabilities. And these are popular phones: the Galaxy S II, Galaxy S III, Galaxy Nexus, the Galaxy Note, and the list goes on.
It’s a bit like contactless credit cards. If you haven’t ever used one, do me a favor. The next time you go to a drug store, or grocery store, or anywhere where they let you swipe your own card through the machine, simply tap your card against that little Wifi-type signal. MasterCard and Visa have a wide net cast, you probably just don’t know you’re in it.
The same is true for NFC. Samsung, at the very least, is on a mission to get you using the technology, in whatever way possible. Eventually — not anytime soon, but eventually — mobile payments will be a multi-billion dollar industry, and Samsung will probably benefit in the long-term for this investment.
TecTiles don’t come at a cheap price but this isn’t a high volume type of purchase. You buy one set for $15 and use all five for actions you perform every day.
The update to TecTiles 3.0 is available now in Google Play.