In 2019, there are many wearable devices, such as smartwatches and smart bands with NFC. However, nobody understands how it works. When you buy, for example, Xiaomi Mi Band 4 NFC version, you hope to get contactless payment function. But NFC doesn’t guarantee contactless payments.
Of course, most of the questions about NFC are related to Xiaomi Mi Band 4. As you remember, even the last year’s Xiaomi Mi Band 3, as well as Honor Band 4 and Xiaomi Hey Plus, had NFC.
So, let’s find out how NFC works and why it will be useful only in China.
Most of smart bands and smartwatches from China with contactless function works only in Chine. This is because two technologies are used for payment:
2. Alipay payment system.
What is NFC technology?
NFC is the abbreviated name for Near Field Communication technology. The principle of NFC is similar to Bluetooth, but it works at a much smaller distance. The radius of NFC does not exceed 10 centimeters. A small distance provides a safer use of technology and a quick process of establishing communication between devices (less than 0.1 seconds).
NFC modules are used in payment terminals, turnstiles, transponders on highways, locks, bank cards, smartphones, smartwatches, etc.
However, we are interested in fitness bracelets. Xiaomi Mi Band 4 and other similar bracelets are equipped with cheap NFC and controllers that cannot provide a high level of security. Therefore, even users from China are not able to pay for a purchase with a bracelet, because they cannot emulate a bank card. The smart bracelets use Alipay’s QR codes to pay for the products. We will talk about this later.
Traveling in transport is another matter. This is one of the main functions of NFC in a fitness bracelet. It works like this: the user buys a transport card to pay for subway or city bus. Then the user enter the data of transport card into a bracelet, after which it can be used to pay for travel. Usually nobody replenishes the transport card for large sums, so a high level of security is not so important.
Another NFC function is access card emulation. Fitness bracelet with NFC allows you to emulate a card if it does not use encryption. The card operates at a frequency of 13.56 MHz. However, this method of application is very limited.
There are even more questions and confusion about Alipay. When most buyers of smart bracelets and smartwatches have seen Alipay app on their Xiaomi or any other smartphones, they think that they can use a fitness bracelet with NFC to make payment through Alipay system. It is not always so.
Alipay is an electronic bank owned by Alibaba group. The principle of payment is as follows: fitness bracelet with NFC is connected to Alipay app on smartphone. Then a special account is created for fitness tracker with a limit of money. If you exceed the limit of money, the bracelet is assigned QR code.
The bracelet owner, when paying for the purchase, shows the seller his QR code. The seller reads QR Code by the scanner, and the payment is made.
As you understand, NFC is not needed! All you need is a screen that displays QR code and software support for this function. Unfortunately, Alipay system is not supported out of China.
Don’t hope that soon you can use the budget fitness bracelets for contactless payments. Even after Mi Pay is launched in Europe, it will take a long time to test and debug the payment system. By that time, Xiaomi will release several generations of its popular fitness bracelet.
What to do? If you really want to pay using smartwatches or smart band, you should look for a gadget with other payment systems, but it will cost several times more.
Today, contactless payment is supported by watches from Apple (Apple Pay), Garmin (Garmin Pay), Samsung (Samsung Pay), as well as smartwatches running Wear OS with Google Pay payment system.
By the way, you can read about 10 best smartwatches with NFC in our article.
Also, there is a more radical solution. Some craftsmen remove the antenna and NFC from a bank card, open the fitness bracelet and place NFC from the bank card inside the bracelet. Of course, this method is risky and difficult.