NFC tags; about Tectiles, SmartTags, Tag+, Mifare and much more
You find a ton of information about tags on this page, and still updating to make it as complete as possible. A mix of tips, tricks, facts, known problems, user feedback.
Tapping a tag isn’t SECURE ?
“SECURITY FLAWS IN NFC” in the headlines after the Black Hat conference L.Vegas 2012. Relax and read here what it is about, do some googling about the details if you’re still concerned about this! Very few authors who write about the important details, a shocking headline to attract visitors is most important.
It’s more about opening URLs and accepting file transfers automatically without any prompt (by design), AND finding/using a vulnerability in the user’s web browser. NFC is used, but not really an exploit in NFC.
C.Miller showed ways in which nfc can be used to force some mobile phones to open Web pages without user approval. Miller chose a web page which exploited a separate vulnerability in Webkit, the browser engine behind Google Chrome and other browsers. The browser exploit then downloaded necessary code and conducted an attack. Miller found some serious vulnerabilities, for a small subset of users, to solve by O.S. developers.
Launching a web page in the browser, or accepting file transfers without warning, without asking user’s permission, is the basis of the problem here. This is something we better avoid, using an app that not skips this extra step.
A link to a malicious web page, in an email is old fashioned. No surprise if soon smart posters appear with a link to a web page with malicious code. “TAP HERE FOR MY NAUGHTY PHOTO .. ” and .. original NFC tags can be replaced with malicious ones. It’s about Common Sense and Security vs Convenience. Using just your own tags, you don’t want and don’t need an extra step in an app, asking your permission before opening the browser and web page.
But more and more smart posters/tags will appear in the wild. IF you tap any tag, AND your app doesn’t show the address first for confirmation AND your browser has vulnerabilities … Then it’s like closing your eyes, pray and click any link.
Tags and nfc technology
An NFC Tag is an unpowered passive target consisting of an NFC chip and an antenna in a substrate. Tags have a very small RF (radio frequency) field, too weak for much interaction. When exposed to an “initiator” (a reader, a writer, a smartphone) with a more powerful RF field, the tag’s RF field is strengthened, then reading or writing can be done.
Most NFC tags contain standardized NDEF messages, which are parsed and shown on-screen, formatted to easy readable content. NDEF is strictly a message format, a common data format for NFC Forum-compliant tags and devices. For tag reading/writing and also for p2p.
Difference between NFC and RFID Tags
The most important difference; NFC Tags only work over a very short distance, 3 cm/1 inch, up to 10 cm/4 inch in theory. RFID can transmit 3 meter/10 feet, special readers can track enhanced RFID tags from 60 meters / 200 feet.
Any object with an affixed or embedded NFC tag for the purposes of marketing or information is considered a Smart Poster. A sticker, an ad in a magazine, a billboard and a keychain are just a few forms of a Smart Poster.
Because of the small memory, a tag will often contain just a web address. Tapping the smart poster takes you to a web page; -where you can buy tickets, -with info about the restaurant menu, -to receive a coupon for a product, a lot possible this way.
NFC Tag – NFC sticker
Often you read NFC sticker, when they mean NFC tag sticker.
Some banks issue NFC stickers for contactless payments using a mobile wallet. These stickers can add NFC capabilities to mobile phones or function as a mobile wallet. We talk about 2 completely different type of stickers of course.
- Adjusting phone settings is not standardized by the NFC-Forum. Do not expect to make one tag that does the job on every phone. Windows Phone 8 O.S. does not allow tags to adjust settings!
- The write endurance for Ultralight tags is 10,000 cycles, they have a 5 year data retention period. Other tags do 100.000 – 500.000 cycles and have a 10 year data retention period.
- Tags from Phone-manufacturers (Samsung Tectiles, Sony SmartTags) are relatively expensive, just buy other tags. Still doubts after reading this page? Online shops seems to be very helpfull, just email.
- NTAG203 is recommended by many shops. appropriate for ALL nfc devices! Compatible with NFC Forum Type 2 specifications. Highest ScanStrength, in many cases most value for your money.
Higher ScanStrength means a greater scanning distance.
Some phones read over a greater distance than others, up to 40 mm in practice for the best phone with the best tag. Sometimes the phone really has to touch the tag to read or write.
- Before tapping, make sure Phone is unlocked, NFC is on, and screen/backlight is on. You can scan a tag while a windows phone is locked, as long as you see the locked screen display.
- pre-installed app is not necessary
The trend is more pre-installed NFC apps on new nfc enabled handsets, phones doing more nfc tricks out of the box.
The preinstalled apps are more basic and made in order to work with the own included tags.
More and more and ever better free/paid apps from the stores. Some offer more options (clone tags, p2p support, store log), offer better compatibility or just do the job more easier.
- multiple NFC apps
Multiple nfc app on your device can cause problems. Tapping a tag can open the wrong app or it doesn’t happen what you want. Don’t forget to choose/change the default applications in the settings!
- Memory capacity;
Notice the small memory capacity of a tag. Some have only 48 byte storage, which is about 4 commands or about 40 characters. Think about a bigger 144 bytes tag for a 130 character URL.
NTAG203 is ok for most applications. For a Vcard buy 1k mifare classic or find a newer NTAG 215/216 type 2 tag.
NFC stickers placed on metal will not work due to interference from the metal. Buy on-metal/anti-metal stickers, designed for use on metal surfaces. These are thicker because an extra isolation layer.
If you want to put the tag on the back of your phone or on another electronic, use this type. These block the EMF from the phone. shop 10 outdoor UL anti metal stickers
- material / shape
NFC tags are rapidly gaining in popularity. More and more tag products in the catalogs. On-metal, outdoor, sticker, key fob, card, circle or square. With the help of the item description in the store, choosing will be no problem.
- Desktop PC;
Reading/Writing tags with a PC is possible, look for a “kit” for it.
Experimenting different tags and googling your specific handset can help choosing the best type for your handset (user feedback; “sometimes tapping for 10 seconds before anything happens”). You know the exact place of the nfc antenna in your phone? See the User guide of your phone! Shops sell sample kits / testing sets.
- Buying nfc tags; A nice list of places that sell NFC tags at xda-developers.
- NFC ReTAG app; This app does not write or change any NFC tags, reads only the ID of a tag. Re-use (write protected) NFC Tags such as hotel key-cards, access badges, price tags, lift cards or key fobs. You can use this app to associate multiple functions to a specific NFC Tag via an app internal database.
(Works similar as the Sony Xperia smartTag app)
Tectiles / Samsung
- Download Tectile app; Ensure NFC is on in your phone and tap your phone to a TecTile sticker to download the TecTile app and install it. To turn on NFC, go to settings > more settings > check the NFC box.
- Is the tectile app not available in your country?, quite possible, or just don’t like it? No problem, download another NFC app from Google Play store.
- Android 2.3.3 or newer required for the Tectile app. Most Phones require (an upgrade to) Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) in order to be compatible with TecTiles! shop 5 Tectile stickers retail pack
- Metal surface;
TecTiles will not work near metal surfaces. Remove the TecTiles from the metallic protective sleeve before you try to read or program your TecTiles.
- Preventing tags being changed;
Check the “Lock TecTile” checkbox before you write the tag. When you do this, nobody can ever change that tag, not even you!
- Tag writing;
Open the Samsung TecTile application, choose the type of tag you want to make and what you want it to do (a big list appears with selectable actions), then tap “next”. Once the app is ready to write the tag, hold the back of your phone on a TecTile tag and wait a second (It says when it’s ready).
- Tag reading;
You don’t need to be in the Samsung TecTile app to read a TecTile tag. Unlock the Phone, screen on and hold the back of your phone on a TecTile tag and wait a few seconds.
Some commands, written with the Tectiles app, may not work correctly on devices without the Samsung TecTiles app. Think of app launching and toggling WiFi.
Tectiles app is not needed for; opening URL, call a number, showing message, sending text message and sharing contacts.
- All browsers?
TecTiles are designed to work with the built-in browser on your phone. If you install a different browser, you may experience some issues when you scan a TecTile.
- Mifare Classic;
The Samsung TecTiles tags use Mifare Classic chips from NXP, which is NOT one of the four tag types standardized by the NFC Forum!
The use of Mifare Classic chips means that only handsets with NFC controller chips from NXP can read the tags. Mifare is NXP’s proprietary protocol, not open standard.
Update April ’13; Samsung is introducing TecTile 2 tags, an update to the TecTile NFC tags. Probably available from May ’13, we don’t now yet if marked as TecTile 2. Some of them seem to be spotted already, type 4, 884 byte tags. “Old” Tectile tags are Mifare classic type, not compatible with some phones. The new Tectile 2 tags are compatible with all nfc phones.
All Android NFC phones use NXP chips, but BlackBerrys and Nokia’s Lumia 610 (Windows O.S.) have chips from Inside Secure (aug ’12).
Update nov.’12; Since the google nexus 4 with a Broadcom nfc controller chip inside, more and more android phones will not read/write mifare classic nfc tags. But.. see a possible solution in the Mifare classic section, a little further down!
NXP still sells the majority of NFC controller chips but more competition is expected soon. Big chip-makers are developing/selling (“combo”) chips with embedded NFC controller. Possible competitors; Broadcom, Marvell, Qualcomm, STMicroelectronics, Samsung semiconductors and TI. Sooner or later other devices can have problems reading the Tectiles. Update; Several phones have Samsung, Mediatek, Broadcom or ST NFC controller chips now.
Mifare Classic, NXP’s security protocol, is widely used for many years, especially in public transport. Mifare Classic chips are very cheap and offer a relatively large memory.
UPDATE; Many great enhancements with TecTile app version 3.0
- Program multiple actions to a single TecTile
- Customize Profiles; Define preloaded Profiles within the app and program a different TecTile tag to launch each profile, for easy toggling between profiles. Profiles also allow one TecTile to perform customized actions for different users when tapped.
- Store TecTile tag history; Users can now keep a log of all TecTile tags they program for easy reference.
- Create private TecTile tags; Create private TecTile tags that only the owner’s phone can read. TecTile 3.0 will associate the programmer’s email address to all private TecTile tags and will only allow execution of a TecTile command to the programmer’s device.
- Unlock a previously locked TecTile; A TecTile programmer can unlock a previously locked TecTile, or clear a TecTile without having to overwrite with a new command. This is beneficial for both consumers and commercial users who want to extend the value of their TecTile tags while retaining the secure option to lock a TecTile.
Samsung also expanded the list of phone settings that TecTile can change when tapped, including the addition of Airplane mode, more comprehensive alarm settings and the ability to automatically change a ringtone. In addition, TecTile 3.0 can now integrate with more applications to give users a more comprehensive experience.
Specifically, TecTile can now:
- Share or edit an electronic business card, forward a call or send a pre-written email to a specific address.
- Toggle between Play/Pause settings on Music Player, or play a specific track
- In addition to integration with LinkedIn, Facebook and foursquare, program a TecTile to update a Google+ status, start a Google Talk conversation, check in on Google Places or on Glympse location sharing.
(The new Tectile app now operates like a “hybrid nfc app”. A part as a “normal” nfc app, storing commands on the tag. And a part as the Sony smartTag app, associating saved data on your phone with the found tag.)
SmartTags / Sony
- Install Sony SmartTag app AND Smart Connect (or LiveWare) manager app (allows you to connect applications with accessories) from Google play store. From android 4 use Smart Connect app, for older android versions use LiveWare.
- Don’t forget to enabled NFC, app.screen icon > settings > Wireless and network settings menu on your (Sony)Phone.
- Android 2.3.3 or newer required for the smartTag app.
- You can add up to 10 actions for each tag.
- SmartTags use small Mifare Ultralight chips.
- The SmartTags application is designed to work with only 4 (5?)Sony branded (expensive) NFC tags (key fobs), but ..
Here’s how to use other tags on your Sony handset.
1 – Install NFC Tag Writer and Reader from Google Play store (free from Connecthings).
(You need a NFC writer capable of writing “custom URL’s”, some nfc apps can’t.)
2 – Open NFC Tag Writer and Reader. Select “write” option – then “reset tag”. This will empty the tags memory.
3 – In the NFC Tag writer menu select “write” Then select the “URL” option.
4 – Delete http://www., and type;
semc://liveware/A1/1/NT1/1/smarttags1 To simulate the blue “car” tag
semc://liveware/A1/1/NT1/2/smarttags1 For the red “home” tag
semc://liveware/A1/1/NT1/3/smarttags1 For the black “bedroom” tag
semc://liveware/A1/1/NT1/4/smarttags1 For the white “office” tag
semc://liveware/A1/1/NT1/0/smarttags1 “favorite” also seems to work.
5 – Tap the back of your phone a few seconds to the tag to write this custom URL to the tag.
The Xperia smartTag app doesn’t write anything to the tag, it just associates a set of commands with the found ID/URL.
So, if you have more than one handset with NFC at home, you can assign different things to the same tag. shop 4 Sony Xperia NFC SmartTags
You set up your actions, your partner sets its own preferences for one and the same tag.
- Can’t find the Xperia SmartTags app icon? Search for the widget (and add to your home screen).
- Non-Sony Phone;
To use Sony Xperia SmartTag key fobs on a non-Sony Phone; Install Xperia smartTag app AND LiveWare manager app on your Android smartphone. Free and available at Google Play store.
If you receive the message “Unknown tag detected” when tapping a tag OR if you have other NFC applications detecting the tag.
Close the application and tap the tag again to detect the Xperia SmartTag application. It’s set as the default application in the settings?
Tag+ or Tag plus / LG
- LG has some pre-programmed tag+ stickers, named; car- office- sleep- and user-mode (probably you found just 2 bundled with your LG Phone ?) Use the Tag+ app to rewrite/change the pre-programmed actions.
- There’s another LG NFC app called “NFC”. With this app you can just share info, no tag writing. (Share a link, phone-number, contact, text, a message or trigger a call) The info you shared, is stored in the app (Later you can share it again). This app will also store a log of all tags you’ve read with your LG handset.
- The LG Tap+ app let’s you write tags and comes pre-installed on your LG Phone.
Mifare / NXP
- MIFARE Classic; (since 1994) uses own protocol compliant to some parts of ISO/IEC 14443-3 Type A, with an NXP own security protocol for authentication and ciphering. (encryption is compromised) The Samsung Tectile tag is a Mifare classic type. Not a standardized NFC-Forum type. Certain locking features will not work on your handset!
- Incompatible mifare classic tags still useful ! ?
You have an NFC enabled Android phone with controller chip that’s not from NXP, and some incompatible mifare classic tags? (Dec.’12 we talk just about the Nexus 4, soon many other android phones with nfc controller chips from other chip suppliers)
Phones still detects the UID Code (unique identifier) from incompatible tags. Apps like “NFC ReTag” or “Anytag nfc launcher” do associate the set commands to the detected tag. These apps write nothing to the tag.
BlackBerry and other O.S.? This kind of apps only available for android. With a Blackberry app similar to abovementioned apps, a BlackBerry phone can be used with mifare classic tags. Correct me if I’m wrong, feedback welcome.
- Mifare Plus; Successor to Mifare Classic, 2k or 4k bytes.
- MIFARE Ultralight; Cheap and uses the same protocol as MIFARE Classic without the security part (slightly different commands). Often used for disposable tickets because of very low price.
- MIFARE Ultralight C; widely adopted standard and NFC Forum Tag Type 2. Cheap with benefits of an open Triple DES cryptography.
- MIFARE NTAG203; Latest chip, highest ScanStrength, NFC Forum Tag Type 2, 144 bytes, “best bang for your buck” according to stores.
- NEW; NTAG210, NTAG213, NTAG215 and NTAG216 will offer respectively 48, 144, 504 and 888 bytes of user memory.
“New features include:
+ 32-bit password authentication, which offers a simple protection mechanism for data stored into the tag
+ UID ASCII mirror, which automatically maps the IC unique serial number to a stored NDEF message, thus greatly simplifying tag serialization e.g. in smart poster applications
+ 24-bit NFC counter and NFC counter ASCII mirror, which measures the number of interactions occurred between NFC devices and the tag, and appends it to a stored NDEF message, e.g. to improve usage analytics in smart advertisement or location based services
+ Integrated originality signature, which enables the detection of unauthorized NTAG copies, thus providing a simple but powerful product authentication method
+ A new Fast Read command, which speeds up tag registration in inline processes such as print media or product label manufacturing
+ A special variant of the NTAG216, called NTAG216F, which additionally offers a configurable Field Detection pin and a Sleep mode, features particularly required in electronics pairing applications.” source; NXP
- MIFARE DESFire, MIFARE DESFire EV1, MIFARE Plus, MIFARE SAM AV2
- Many NFC apps available in the Google play store, free and paid apps with more options, doing the job more easier or more secure than the pre-installed nfc app on your phone.
- On Android handsets, NFC is off when the screen is off !
- NFC Task Launcher (now a free app) is a very popular nfc tag writer app;
Supports NFC Forum Type 1, Type 2, Type 3 and Type 4 Tags as well as third party NFC enabled tags like the MIFARE Classic, DESFire, Ultralight and Ultralight C!
Android 2.3.3 or newer required and reading/writing works on “any” device with the app installed according to developer.
- Android phones also read Mifare Classic tags but certain locking features will not work on your handset.
- Update nov.’12; Since the google nexus 4 with a Broadcom nfc controller chip inside, more and more android phones will not read/write mifare classic nfc tags.
- The “pre-format bug” affects Android ICS O.S. versions 4.0.0 to 4.0.2, in version 4.0.3 the bug is fixed.
If you are running Android 4.0.0 to 4.0.2 you need to buy NDEF formatted tags or use NXP’s Tag Writer to format them to NDEF first.
- Touchanote app assigns an evernote-note to an NFC tag.
1 a free Evernote account (at www.evernote.com)
2 the Evernote Android app on your NFC-enabled mobile phone
3 internet connection on your mobile phone via WiFi or 3G
“Tags are encrypted upon being written. To review the content stored to a particular tag, a mobile phone must be logged in to the Evernote account that created that particular note.”
Touchanote supports NFC Forum Type 1 and 2 tags.
Pre-installed BlackBerry “Smart Tags” app can just write URL’s to a tag, and always asks you to confirm if you want to go to that web-page or not (more Security, less Convenience).
NFCShortcuts app (former NFCLauncher); the paid version writes to tags and allows you to launch apps or shortcuts conveniently (without extra confirm step). Just .. handsets without NFCShortcuts can’t read your tags. A few other nfc apps available in BlackBerry appworld.
BlackBerrys have no problems with Mifare Ultralight and NTAG203 tags.
DON’T buy Mifare Classic tags for your BlackBerry 7.x or 10 phone. Mifare Classic tags follow a proprietary tag format, which can only be read by a smartphone that uses nfc technology (controller chip) from NXP!
See how-to, creating NFC tags to automate tasks with the ShortcutMe and NFCShortcuts apps on your BlackBerry.
Nokia’s Lumia 610 w/ Windows O.S. has Inside Secure controller chip = problems with Mifare Classic tags. “Nokia will also provide an app called Nokia Tag Writer” pre-installed on the Lumia 610, or in the store? I found no info about it yet. No nfc app for the Lumia 610 in Nokia store or Windows marketplace (july ’12).
Nokia N9 and all Symbian Phones don’t have this “restriction”, they read Type 1, Type 2, MiFare Classic and Ultralight tags. The “Nokia Tag Writer” app is available in the Nokia store. For the N9 and the Symbians several (free) nfc apps available, the Nokia store is the place to go.
Update nov.’12; The Nokia Lumia 620, 720, 8xx and 920 also supports the Mifare classic tags, but they must be NDEF formatted first (buy formatted tags or use another phone with an nfc writing app). No pre-installed nfc writing app on the first Windows 8 Phones.
Update feb.’13; New “Nokia NFC writer” app. This app allows you to read/write any standard NFC tag. “You can create NFC tags to launch applications, check-in to places, update social status, or even make phone calls or send text messages.” “While the tags are created using your Windows Phone, they can be read by any operating system that is NFC enabled.” The app is only for Nokia Lumia devices, not for other brands. Don’t expect this app to change your system settings!
You can scan a tag while a windows phone is locked, as long as you see the locked screen display.
Nokia’s Lumia 610; Just don’t buy the Mifare Classic tags. The Classic tag from NXP is NOT one of the four tag types standardized by the NFC Forum and is not supported.
“The device is able to read and write to a number of NFC tags. Supported technologies are NFC forum Type 1,2,3,4 (Including Topaz, Ultralight C, NTag, Felica, DesFire, ISO-14443 Type A/B, ..), Mifare Std, Kovio and others”
The Lumia can read tags, out of the box. I’m not sure if it has a pre-installed app able to write tags.
Update nov.’12; NXP controller chips in the first Windows 8 phones; Lumia 8xx, 920 and HTC windows 8.
Turn on nfc; settings – “tap+send”, turn on “NFC sharing”.
Windows Phone 8 only supports NDEF level access to these tags, which means that the tag needs to be NDEF formatted or have an existing (empty) NDEF message to it. Windows Phone 8 O.S. does not support locking tags, no support for low-level tag type specific commands.
NFC in Windows Marketplace is most about football .. (Dec ’12). Nfc Interactor is a reader / writer app for windows 8, not free (free trial), but value for money it seems.
Google for an nfc reader/writer or a “kit” if reading/writing tags with a PC is interesting for you.
With the “GoToTags” Windows NFC App you can read and write NFC tags using Microsoft Windows. Supports USB and serial port NFC readers that are attached to your Personal Computer.
4 standardized Tag types by NFC Forum
The NFC Forum has mandated four tag types to be operable with NFC devices. This is essential for interoperability between different NFC tag providers and NFC device manufacturers to ensure a consistent user experience.
From the definitions of the different NFC tag types, it can be seen that type 1 and 2 tags are very different to type 3 and 4 tags, having different memory capacity and makeup. Accordingly it is expected that there is likely to be very little overlap in their applications.
Type 1 and type 2 tags are dual state and may be either read/write or read-only. Type 3 and Type 4 tags are read-only, data being entered at manufacture or using a special tag writer.
- Tag Type 1, ISO14443A based;
Products; Jewel, Innovision (Broadcom) Topaz 96 and 512 bytes
Data access; Read/re-Write or read only, users can configure the tag to become read-only
Memory; 96 Bytes, expandable up to 2 kbyte
Speed; 106 kbit/s
- Tag Type 2, ISO14443A based:
Products; Ultralight (UL) 48 bytes, about 40 characters, Ultralight C (ULC) 148 bytes, about 130 characters, NTAG203 144 bytes, about 130 characters, Infineon my-D Move and NFC, Kovio 2K.
NEW; NTAG210, NTAG213, NTAG215 and NTAG216 will offer respectively 48, 144, 504 and 888 bytes of user memory
Data access; Read/re-Write or read only, users can configure the tag to become read-only
Memory; 48 bytes – 148 Bytes, expandable up to 2 kbyte
Speed; 106 kbit/s
- Tag Type 3, Sony Felica, JIS X6319-4, Nfc-F:
This NFC tag type is more applicable for more complex applications.
Products; Sony FeliCa Lite 224 bytes, Sony FeliCa 4K 4096 bytes, RC-S965, RC-S888
Data access; Read/re-Write or read only
Memory; 1, 2, 4, 9 KB
Speed; 212 kbit/s
- Tag Type 4, ISO1444-3A Nfc-A and ISO1444-3B Nfc-B compatible, ISO14443-4, ISO7816-4:
These NFC tags are pre-configured by manufacturer.
Products; MIFARE DESFire 2048 / 4096 / 8192 bytes, NXP SmartFX with JCOP, Inside secure MicroPass 4101 2K, MicroPass 4101-2K (MiFare DESFire EV1 tags must be pre-formatted before they can be used with a BlackBerry.)
Inside secure VaultIC 151D/161D with 1.5 / 16 Kbyte
Data access; Read/re-Write or read only
Memory; up to 32 kbytes
Speed; between 106 kbit/s and 424 kbit/s
Comments and feedback are very welcome, for Joao and other visitors.