Business Card - Smartphone

One of the applications of NFC technology that has been spreading in recent years is the programming of a tag or a card with a digital business card.

What is that?

Digital phonebook contacts are saved in the vCard standard (or .vcf file). Thanks to this standard, it is quite easy to export and import your address books from/to different devices and operating systems.

When programming an NFC tag, a record of type NDEF is usually used. This is a universal format, so that a tag programmed with one device can be read correctly by other, different devices. The NDEF record is divided into several sub-types; the most common is the web link (URL), but vCard type is also available.

In marketing, NFC technology began to spread with the release of the iPhone XR. This model and the following ones, in fact, are equipped with "background reading", that is the NFC reading in the background. The NFC behaviour is in fact very similar to the Android smartphones'. This means that a tag programmed with a web link, when read, automatically opens the browser to the link programmed on the tag.

The bad news is that background reading, at least for the moment, doesn't support all NDEF record types. Specifically, it does not support the vCard format.

What can you do?

There is a workaround that can get around the problem. Basically, it involves programming the chip with 2 NDEF records: the first with the vCard and the second with a web link.

Android smartphones, in fact, only read the first NDEF record they find: consequently they will open the contact with the address book app.

IPhones, on the other hand, skip the first record and read the second directly by opening the link. But what kind of links do you need to program? The trick is to create a vCard file, upload it online, and program the URL that calls the file into the tag. In this way, by reading the tag with an iPhone, Safari will automatically open the vCard contact, downloading it from the internet.

Useful resources

To create a .vcf file, you can export it from your own address book. Or you can create it using free software like vCard Maker.

Once the file has been created, you can upload it to your own FTP space, or to personal Clouds (Google Drive, DropBox, etc.), having the foresight to set the file as 'public'.

To program the chip, we recommend a free app like NFC TagWriter by NXP, available for both Android and iOS.

Pay attention to chip's memory

A complete vCard contact, with at least name, surname, company, email, telephone number, requires a certain amount of memory (which depends on the length of the single fields). therefore, it is recommended to choose an NTAG216 type chip, which can contain at least 10 medium-length fields.