NFC vs QR Code: Why QR Codes Are the Clear Winner

While NFC technology can be useful for digital file sharing and data transfers, it still requires physical contact and has a very short radius for use. With the coronavirus pandemic at an all-time high, it’s important to refrain from physical contact as much as possible. This is precisely why QR Codes are a much more suitable tool for contactless payments and data transfers. QR Codes are more secure than NFC and can be scanned from near and far — with absolutely no physical contact.

NFC and QR Codes are both used for storing and sharing information

With a pandemic like the coronavirus that can also spread through the contact of contaminated surfaces, contactless payments and information transfer have become more important than ever. The sharing of information is essential both for governments to keep their citizens informed, as well as for brands to continue communication with their customers about how their products and services are affected. As a result, NFC and QR Codes are two of the main technologies used for file sharing and digital information transfer to lessen the dependency on things like cash payments and paperwork sharing.

What is NFC?

NFC on an Android device. Source:

NFC, otherwise known as Near Field Communication, is an electronic method for smartphones or other devices to interact with each other within close proximity. NFC works based on a tag (a small chip) and has a radius of about 4 cm (1.5 in). It creates a wireless connection that doesn’t need mobile internet to function and is also free to use as long as your device or card has the NFC tag installed.

How is NFC used?

NFC technology was released onto the market back in 2008. Many people have long been using it without realizing it. If you’re wondering how contactless payments with credit and debit cards work, that is NFC technology. NFC has more recently been combined with Google and Apple Pay to make wallets entirely digital for cashless and mobile payments.

NFC tags in debit and credit cards enable cashless payments with a touch

In addition to contactless payments, other uses of NFC include:

  • Sending a phone number
  • Sending pictures
  • Sending documents
  • Sending directions with Google Maps
  • Starting an app on another device
  • Connecting with other NFC tags

What is a QR Code?

Left: QR Code, Right: Barcode

QR Codes were originally invented to improve on the technology of Barcodes for use in product inventory management. The technology was made public in 1994 and has made massive waves for not just inventory management, but for digital information transfer for marketing, businesses, and more.

A QR Code on a billboard can be scanned from a far distance

A QR Code’s innovative functionality can be attributed to its square shape. While Barcodes can only be read horizontally and require a special scanner, QR Codes can be read both horizontally and vertically, as well as be scanned by anyone with a smartphone. Their ease of use, a comprehensive range of flexibility, large data storage capacity, and damage resistance is what has made them so popular multifunctional on a global scale.

How are QR Codes used?

QR Codes have a much wider range of use than both Barcodes and NFC. To give an idea of just how much QR Codes can do, here are some examples:

  • Contactless and mobile payments
  • Bitcoin payments
  • Enable WiFi access
  • Share PDFs
  • Share app store links
  • Create digital business cards and business pages
  • Share social media links
  • Share video, image, and sound files
  • Connect users with website links
  • Automatic event registration and ticketing
  • Collect feedback and ratings
  • Send text messages, plain text, and emails
  • Create digital coupons
  • Location sharing with Google Maps
QR Codes can be added to any of size print materials and on digital marketing platforms

4 disadvantages of NFC and why QR Codes are better

While NFC can be useful in some circumstances, the benefit of using QR Codes far outweighs NFC technology. QR Codes are more secure, are convenient and easy to use due to smartphones, and have a wide range of use cases. And most importantly during the coronavirus pandemic, QR Codes do not require any physical contact and have no distance limitations, unlike the NFC. The following sections go into more detail about why QR Codes clearly win the battle of NFC vs QR Code.

Not all devices have an NFC tag, limiting mobile payments

Although some newer smartphone models automatically come with NFC tags, not all of them do. If your phone doesn’t have one, it can be tough to add an NFC tag to a phone that doesn’t come with it. If you’d like to use NFC to make mobile payments, you’d be better off using wearables like a smartwatch.

QR Codes can be used for mobile payments without physical contact or needing a chip like NFC

Why QR Code technology is better: In reality, dropping a few hundred dollars on a new wearable is not the most convenient option. QR Codes make this process 100 times easier because you don’t need any additional equipment to pay with them. Wallets like Google Pay (Android phones) and Apple Pay (iPhones) automatically enable mobile payment via digital wallets with QR Codes.  In both cases, all you need is to have the relevant wallet app installed and scan a vendor’s QR Code that accepts that form of payment – and this with absolutely zero physical contact.

NFC information sharing can’t be done from a distance

NFC technology has a radius of a mere 4 cm (1.5 in). Furthermore, NFC tags are placed in different areas of a phone or device, so most of the time you need to directly contact and rub the devices together for the information transfer to work. The fact that the contact of contaminated surfaces can also help spread coronavirus renders NFC technology pretty much useless nowadays.

Why QR Code technology is better: Instead of rubbing your smartphone with public devices and spreading the virus, opt for a contactless technology like QR Codes. QR Code scanning takes place from a distance, even extremely far distances, making it easy to uphold the 1m social distancing recommendation. QR Codes can be scaled up as large as you need, even on billboard ads or larger. The only requirements are that the QR Code is at least 2 x 2 cm (0.8 x 0.8 in) and is a high-quality image, otherwise, people and QR Code scanners could have trouble reading it.

NFC device compatibility issues

NFC is in no way a universal technology. NFC users often encounter problems with sharing files. This can be both with users who have different types of smartphones and for different file formats to be usable when opened by another user. When phones have updates to their operating systems, NFC functionality can be negatively affected. Overall, the whole NFC system, in general, is in no way prepared for universal and convenient digital information transfer. It basically just makes everything confusing and incompatible.

NFC file transfers can be incompatible across different devices

Why QR Code technology is better: Even though QR Codes were invented before NFC, the concept of universal use was already an essential part of their design. You don’t need any special scanner to scan QR Codes. All smartphones can scan QR Codes (whether it’s automatically through the camera or a third-party app) and there is no variation for how you use a QR Code’s content on different devices. QR Codes have always been and always will be universal, convenient and easy for anyone with a smartphone, because you simply scan the QR Code and view its content—no matter whether your phone uses Android, iPhone or another operating system.

NFC has major security flaws

One of the most prominent disadvantages of NFC is the general lack of security measures related to it. This can happen in a variety of ways:

  • Eavesdropping: happens when a criminal “listens in” on an NFC translation to steal private information.
  • Data corruption or manipulation: data being transferred during an NFC transaction can be corrupted and manipulated so that the receiver can’t use it.

Interception attacks: occur when an NFC data transfer is rerouted to a device other than the one that’s intended.

NFC comes with serious security risks from criminals that manipulate and steal personal data

Why QR Code technology is better: QR Codes are simply much more secure than NFC. There are no chances of such instances like eavesdropping, data manipulation, or interception attacks because only the person scanning the QR Code has control over how they view the content. Furthermore, our URL shorteners make it so only the account owner can change a QR Code’s link, so there is no chance of users being redirected to harmful sites. We take QR Code security extremely seriously and have also developed methods for making QR Codes authentic and trustworthy.

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