Fun with NFC Tags, NFC Tag Launcher – App Review

NFC Task Launcher
NFC Task Launcher

NFC (Near Field Communication) is still rather new to the scene, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to do some impressive things.  Only a handful of phones currently support NFC: Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S, HTC One X, SII, and SIII just to name a few; but it’s starting to become standard for more and more manufacturers to include NFC on their hardware.  NFC has the potential to be a versatile feature if it manages to catch on.  It can be used as an alternate to carrying an ID Card that you would normally wave in front of a card reader, Foursquare check-in, or to share business cards.  Using NFC as a payment option is in different levels of development with several companies including Chase, Google, Microsoft, and Apple.

So what does this mean for you right now?  Well, not much, as many of these vaunted uses are not yet in place or not widely accepted.  However, you can still use your NFC capable phone for some fun and useful tasks.  In comes programs such as NFC Task Launcher.  NFC Task Launcher allows you to program NFC Tags to perform specific tasks on your phone when the tag is read.  You can set it to enable WiFi and log on to a network, disable GPS, run a program, display a URL, or even show a vCard.  After reading an article on this it sounded like way too much fun for me to pass up, so naturally, I had to join in.

The first thing you need to do is actually get your hands on some NFC Tags.  Fortunately,

NFC Tags
A selection of NFC Tags

NFC Task Launcher can help you with this as well.  The app has a section for purchasing NFC Tags where it lists out several websites that sell NFC Tags.  Tags can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, capacity, and adhesives (some are stickers).  For the purposes of my experimenting I purchased tags from Tagstand.com.  The starter kit from Tagstand included a set of four different tag stickers ranging in size and shape, picture here.  I found that the larger the tag, the easier my phone could read it.  Even if the tag is placed behind something else, such as a picture frame or mousepad.  However, that ability will also depend on your hardware, so test a variety of tags before deciding on one for any specific purpose.

Select Tag Type screen
The Select Tag Type screen

The “Select Tag Type” screen gives you an idea of the different functions you can perform using one of the tags.  For my purposes, I wanted to create a series of tags that would modify my phone’s settings depending on where I was (Home, Work, Car, Bed).  For example, using the “New Task” type I created a task to modify my settings for when I got in my car.  You can name your task and then add specific tasks and toggles.  For my “Car” tag, I wanted it to disable WiFi, enable Bluetooth and GPS, set my ringtone and notification sounds, and then launch Car Home.  Once you have all your tasks configured, simply hit finish, and set the phone on the tag you want to write the task to.  After a quick chirp indicating a successful write, you’re all done.  Now, placing your phone on the tag will initiate NFC Task Launcher to modify your profile as dictated in your task, or run whatever process you setup.

My Car task
Tasks performed by the CAR tag

You also have the option of creating a “switch.”  A switch allows you to take two tag tasks that you may have already created and write a NFC tag as a toggle between those two tasks.  For example, I have a tag on my nightstand that toggles my phone between my Home and Bed tasks.  Touch the tag once and it loads Bed.  Touch it a second time and it will load Home.

Even if you’ve never used NFC Tags before, NFC Task Launcher makes creating new tags extremely easy.  The menus are simple and easy to understand with no complex programming required.  Support for the app is available and, even though I didn’t require any, browsing through the forums show the developers are very responsive to issues and user questions.  There are dozens of tasks you can configure, and throw in the ability to use Tasker tasks, the possibilities are nearly endless with what you can do.  You can find out more detailed information on the tasks that can be programmed by viewing the Google Play page for the app.

App Price: Free

App Link: NFC Tag Launcher

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