Can Samsung make NFC tech happen? Not with TecTiles

Can Samsung make NFC tech happen? Not with TecTiles

Summary: Samsung's TecTile programmable stickers seek to popularize near-field communications technology for mobile devices. But the effort is weak.

TOPICS: Samsung

Let's face it: in today's world of electronic mobility, we do things within our phones, not with them.

We can forget them on the bus, drop them, flush them and even hurl them at housekeeping. (Hell, we can even blend them.) But that's the extent of our relationship with the things.

Almost everything we do with the smartphone is contained in that little screen. As objects, we abuse them. We don't really use them.

Samsung wants to use its corporate largesse to change that. The company says it has the most near-field communications-enabled devices in American consumers' hands -- all those Galaxy S III, S II, Nexus and S Blaze devices do the trick -- and it seeks to use that user base to propel NFC technology into regular use.

How? Through the use of TecTiles, cleverly named programmable stickers that, when tapped with your phone, automate a task -- such as sharing a business card, checking into Foursquare or connecting with someone on LinkedIn.

Samsung says the stickers are best used to automate everyday functions, such as silencing your phone when you enter a meeting, or resetting an alarm for the next morning. That's the consumer pitch.

For businesses, Samsung says the stickers can be used "as a way to market to and engage with consumers by enabling reward programs and to download discount offers or content."

The $14.99 packs of five stickers are available from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile; a corresponding app can be downloaded from the Google Play store.

As with anything like this, it's all about adoption: the TecTile is D.O.A. unless both consumers and businesses take to it. First they need to hear about it, then they need to see how it solves a problem.

The company told my CNET colleague Jessica Dolcourt that TecTiles are really a warmup act for mobile payments:

Part of the problem, according to Samsung, is that ordinary people are unused to physically using their phone to do things. Consumers know how to swipe cards and punch numbers, not to press a phone onto a terminal and authorize payment through an app.

A fair point, but I feel this effort is woefully misguided. The pitch is weak and the barrier for use high. (Are you really going to purchase a sticker to set your morning alarm?) If the company wants to accelerate the adoption of NFC technology -- really, truly gain traction -- it's going to have to work with major partners to kill off plastic cards entirely.

(Ironically, the title for its announcement is "Samsung Mobile Puts All the Pieces in Place to Bring NFC to the Masses." Hardly.)

Until I can leave them all at home, tapping my way through the city, there's no hope for NFC. It's not the technology; it's the fact that a tap doesn't improve upon the swipe enough for vendors and consumers to switch. I want to get rid of all the plastic in my wallet, too -- but too few vendors have the incentive to change. And in the case of TecTiles, which require both effort and money for a trivial payoff, I suspect few consumers will have the incentive to even try them.

Topic: Samsung

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • Let's ignore it and maybe it will go away

    In the effort to do something new, some suppliers forget the goal is making life easier for people, not more complected.

    I suggest we just ignore this and maybe it will simply go away.
  • The NFC Finals: Google Wallet vs.TecTiles

    The NFC Finals: Google Wallet vs.TecTiles - Among technology's previous generation of Next Big Things, we heard a lot of talk about the potential of NFC (Near-Field Communication). Smartphone manufacturers were excited enough to start putting NFC on over 40 production models in 2011 alone -- despite the fact that there were very few real-world applications. Google tried to jump-start NFC with an ambitious Google Wallet project, and Samsung's recently unveiled TecTiles hopes to make app-loving users excited about the possibilities.
  • it could gain traction

    I could see it used in conference rooms where everyones phones silence as they walk in the rooms or they just slide the phone over a little table to silence them, etc. Or to buy movie tickets using a wall of tiles.. Things like this could take off.
  • Galaxy Nexus

    Samsung customer support confirmed to me today that Samsung TecTiles are not compatible with Samsung Galaxy Nexus hardware, at least on the Verizon model, they are not offered on the TecTile web page, and neither does Verizonwireless offer them for sale online. The Google Play web page for the TecTile app shows it is compatible with ICS on Verizon Galaxy Nexus and downloadable. Since the TecTile NFC stickers are not available for sale I was unable to determine if the app works. The Nexus S and Galaxy S3 might work, however. Google Wallet is also not available on stock Verizon Galaxy Nexus models, although the NFC antenna is on both standard and extended batteries for the device.
  • Tectiles work fine with my Galaxy Nexus

    joeshuren, I have the Tectile app on my Verizon Galaxy Nexus and it works just great. I've got a tile in my car to toggle my bluetooth and wifi. I haven't seen the tiles for sale in a store yet, but I hear that they are coming to all of the phone stores--AT&T, Verizon, etc. I picked up mine at a Samsung demo event and I want more so I've been asking around to see when they will be on sale nearby. Guess I'll have to just by them online.
  • I use Tectiles every day

    I'm really not sure how Tectiles are meant to replace credit credit cards. I use mine to reprogram my phone for the drive to work, when I'm at my desk, and when I'm in meetings. I have a tile in the car cradle for my phone that turns off wifi, turns on Bluetooth, and launches Sirius XM. At work it turns Bluetooth off, wifi on, and turns the ringer volume to medium. In meetings, I've got a sticker in the inside cover of my agenda. After swiping through the cover when I'm in the meeting, the Tectile will silence my phone. I don't use the Tectile app by Samsung however. Instead, I use NFC Task Launcher, as the Samsung app is too limited.