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CIO - About a month ago, Samsung reached out to see if I was interested in checking out its latest personal color printer, which happens to be NFC-enabled. I was. The company says the printer it sent, the Xpress C460FW, is the "world's first laser printer with NFC technology." I'm not so sure that's true, because a quick Google search turned up a number of other NFC-enabled printers from Brother and HP. Either way, it's the first NFC printer I've used.
The idea sounds cool, but in practice, it's just not that valuable.
Near Field Communications (NFC) technology, a short-range wireless technology that lets you quickly share data between compatible devices, is not new. My first phone with NFC was a BlackBerry 9900, which I got in 2011. But NFC is taking a long time to catch on.
NFC has real potential, and I wrote about a very cool, and valuable, way that Good Technology is using NFC last year. Payment companies clearly see promise in the technology. NFC is a key component in the ISIS Mobile Wallet, and there are more than 2.9 million NFC-enabled payment stations at retail locations across the world, according to ISIS CEO Michael Abbott, who spoke at the MobileCon conference in October. And Matt Bancroft, president of Mobile Helix, a mobile security company, told me earlier this week that he expects NFC to become "an increasingly mainstream and powerful technical enabler of mobile productivity."
But of all the various wireless technologies in my gadgets, NFC is by far the one I use least often. In fact, I've yet to find a use for NFC that's truly compelling or that some other technology can't do just as well. Android Beam, which uses NFC to transfer files back and forth between Android devices, works well, but I never use it; I just email files or share then via the cloud. Samsung's TecTiles don't work well -- at least in my experience -- so I never use those either. NFC has been lauded as the future of mobile payments, but I still don't use any of the NFC mobile wallets. Samsung's printer is another example of NFC as novelty and not tech that provides real value. Here's why.
Samsung's Fancy New NFC Printers
I'm not going to review Samsung's printer here. In my experience, the features that aren't related to NFC work just as well as you'd hope - though the wireless network setup was tedious, and it keeps telling me the paper tray is empty when it's not. This story is about NFC, so I'll stick to that feature.
Here's how you might imagine an NFC printer would work: You pick up your phone or tablet; open a document, image, whatever; tap your device against the printer and, voila, NFC-enabled printing.
Here's how the Samsung Xpress C460FW printer actually works: You download the Samsung Mobile Print app; tap your device against the NFC panel on the top of the printer to launch the app (or launch the app yourself); navigate to the file you want to print using a set of options within the app; tap the device on the printer again; wait for the app to initiate a connection to the printer using Wi-Fi Direct and, finally, either tap the phone again on the NFC spot or just hit the Print option in the app. (I usually had to actually hit the Print option in the app, because tapping the printer just reestablished the connection to my mobile device and didn't start the actual printing.)