Ever wonder what the NFC card mode is and how it works differently compared to Google Wallet and Pay?

What is NFC Card Mode?

When you enable NFC Card Mode from the notification panel, you’ll notice that the NFC chip behaves a little differently than it did before in Android 4.4.  You will see that when NFC Card mode is on you can scan it.  And it scans more like a smart card than a NFC tag.  What you’ve enabled is a new feature introduced in Android 4.4 called Host Card Emulation.  It will turn your Android effectively into a smart card for new payment and identification systems that should be adopted in the future.

Uses for NFC Card Mode: Simple Transactions

One new possibility for this new system is for a subway system to let people pay by swiping their smartphone as they enter a turnstile.  The limitation has always been, either the subway company had to overhaul their payment scanners so that it worked with the NFC chip on our smartphones, or it required the customer, you, to open the subway card app and make it temporarily work the subway scanner.  Both of these choices never seemed like an attractive solution for either parties.

Now with NFC Card Mode, the subway system should theoretically only need to update their software, and you should able to scan your smartphone and a transaction can take place without you having to open any apps.

Using NFC Card Mode as a Smart Card/Credit Card

NFC Card mode can handle more complex transactions of paying with a credit card but without the need for a middleman like Google Wallet.  Currently, how NFC payments work is that it needs a secure element, aka a Google wallet or something like it, and your cellular service provider had to allow it to be on there.  And you can see why credit card companies, cellular providers, and Google would all have some conflicts of interest.  But now with NFC Card Mode it  eliminates the need for a middleman.

What is the Catch?

It sounds great but there's a catch, for now.  This technology is so new, you’ll most likely won’t be using it for a while.  And until then you can use the older NFC payment systems that accepts Google Wallet and wallets like it, which are actually somewhat in place.  And that’s where this new setting called “tap and pay” comes along.

What is Tap and Pay?

This new setting will let you have multiple wallets such as Google Wallet and Isis and you can change which one to use.  Before Android 4.4, you were locked into 1 that was chosen by your cellular carrier.


NFC Card Mode will come in handy for simple payment systems such as paying a subway fare, or maybe other functions such as unlocking a secured door at your work.  For payments, you’ll have to use an app to handle the transaction, but you won’t be required to go through a wallet system that your phone company has selected to allow.  The catch, at the time of this article, this is all for the future, and you can’t use it yet.  Until then , the current implementation of NFC payments have improved as well with Tap and Pay.  And you should be able to use it now if you see the NFC payment sysmbol and you have a something like Google wallet set up.

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