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What Apple's new AirDrop data sharing says about NFC

Matt Hamblen | June 12, 2013
And why one analyst believes Apple will still adopt NFC — eventually

NFC is inherently more secure than data transfers over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, even if encrypted, because of the short distance for making a connection, which is very hard to intercept, several analysts and banks adopting NFC have said. The NFC specification requires two NFC devices to be less than four inches apart to transmit data.

"Even though AirDrop is encrypted, it uses Wi-Fi, and the first question I'd ask is about secure connections," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "With NFC, people a block away can't decipher my data."

Some analysts said smartphones running NFC, which is widely used in Asian countries for transportation and retail purchases, will increase in the U.S. in late 2015, when U.S. merchants are expected to upgrade to point-of-sales to terminals to accept smart chip card transactions that are compatible with smartphone NFC.

Aside from not having to bump devices, it isn't clear how much faster AirDrop data transfers would be than using Android Beam. Apple's website demonstrates in a video an AirDrop sharing of an unspecified amount of data in a couple of seconds. The size of the file being shared is what will determine the speed of a transfer.

With 802.11ac theoretical speeds of up to 1.3 Gbps (but much slower in practice), AirDrop transfers could be very fast when done in a peer-to-peer fashion over a common Wi-Fi network. By contrast, NFC is relatively slow, topping out at 424 Kbps, although Bluetooth 4.0 is much faster, at up to 25 Mbps.

Still, mobile wallet transactions are usually comprised of small data files and can make an NFC transfer possibly in less than a second, while transferring an entire album of songs or photos over Android Beam can take a few seconds.


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