Feature Articles

Setting Up Your Smartphone for NFC

By Sidney Wong - 27 Jan 2013

Setting Up Your Smartphone for NFC

Getting Started on NFC 

Continuing from where we left off in our introductory guide to NFC, this article will bring you through the process of setting up your NFC device for using NFC services in Singapore. The process generally involves the following steps:-

  1. Check if you've an NFC approved smartphone with your telco service provider
  2. Obtain an NFC SIM card (service fees may apply)
  3. Download your Smart Wallet mobile app
  4. Register and activate the appropriate payment service with your Smart Wallet mobile app
  5. Top-up you prepaid payment service (if applicable)

After the above five steps, you should be all ready to tap and pay via your NFC approved mobile device.


Approved NFC Smartphones in Singapore

First and foremost, you have to check whether your existing smartphone is certified for secure contactless payment by various global payment standards bodies such as EMVco, MasterCard, VISA as well as EZ-Link. In addition, phones have to undergo testing to ensure their compatibility with the local payment infrastructure.

Quoted below are the responses by the three telcos in response to our query as to why only certain devices are approved for use in Singapore: - 

Singtel - “We are working with handset manufacturers to expand our range of NFC-enabled devices and also to be the first to offer NFC services for 4G handsets. Increasingly, handset manufacturers are incorporating NFC as a feature in their new phones."

StarHub - "Members of the consortium have collaborated with the industry to define best practices for Singapore’s nationwide mobile NFC infrastructure, including the implementation of de-facto payment standards to ensure the security of over-the-air data transfers and stored data on the smart chips in NFC enabled mobile devices. For example, the StarHub NFC SIM card and NFC enabled smartphone models sold by StarHub are fully certified for secure contactless payment by various global payment standards bodies such as EMVco, MasterCard, VISA as well as EZ-Link. We are working closely with handset manufacturers and our partners to progressively expand our list of NFC enabled smartphone models."

M1 - "All NFC handsets being utilized in Singapore are to be certified by Gemalto, VISA, MasterCard and local payment service providers ie: EZ-link, to ensure compatibility with the local payment infrastructure. M1 will continue to work our partners in expanding and making available our range of NFC-handsets."

For now, here's a roundup of smartphones that are currently endorsed by the three telcos in Singapore at the point of publication. As mentioned above, the three telcos will continue to work with the relevant partners and authorities to expand the range of NFC handsets that can be used here.

Model Samsung Galaxy S Advance Samsung Galaxy S III / S III LTE Samsung Galaxy Note II LTE

4-inch Super AMOLED
800 x 480 pixels
Dual-core 1GHz CPU

Android 2.3 Gingerbread
8GB or 16GB interal storage
(microSD support up to 32GB)
123.2 x 63.0 x 9.69 mm

4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED
1280 x 720 pixels
Quad-core 1.4GHz CPU
1GB RAM (3G) / 2GB RAM (LTE)
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
16GB - 32GB internal storage
(microSD support up to 64GB)
136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm

5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED
1280 x 720 pixels
Quad-core1.6GHz CPU
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
16GB - 64GB internal storage
(microSD support up to 64GB)
151 x 81 x 9.4mm

Availability M1 & SingTel

Samsung Galaxy S III - M1 & StarHub 
SIII LTE - M1, SingTel & StarHub

M1, SingTel, StarHub
Model Sony Xperia S Sony Xperia P Sony Xperia Sola

 4.3-inch LED-backlit LCD
1280 x 720 pixels
Dual-core 1.5GHz CPU
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
32GB internal storage
128 x 64 x 10.6mm

4-inch Reality Display with Sony WhiteMagic Technology
960 x 540 pixels
Dual-core 1GHz CPU
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
16GB internal storage
122 x 59.5 x 10.5 mm
3.7-inch Reality Display with Mobile BRAVIA Engine
854 x 480 pixels
Dual-core 1GHz CPU
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
8GB internal storage
(microSD support up to 32GB)
116 x 59 x 9.9mm
 Availability M1, SingTel & StarHub  SingTel exclusive StarHub exclusive


What About the iPhone?

In case you are wondering, the Apple iPhone 5 is not NFC-enabled. As one of the more recent phones to be launched in 2012, oddly NFC isn't one of the features of the latest iPhone. In an interview with AllThingsD, Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller commented that the Passbook feature alone should suffice most consumers, and works fine without current merchant payment systems.

AllThingsD - It’s not clear that NFC is the solution to any current problem, Schiller said. “Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today.”

Although the iPhone does not have NFC capability, several third party manufacturers have come up with add-on products to make NFC services possible on the device. One such manufacturer is ChipWave, a global supplier of NFC tags and stickers, NFC readers and writers, and other NFC-enabled products and services. Chipwave collaborated with iCarte on two accessories which will turn the iPhone 3 series and 4 series into NFC phones. 

Image source: ChipWave


NFC SIM Card and Service Activation Fees 

Now that you have seen which phones are certified for use with NFC services locally, the next step is to change your SIM card to a NFC SIM card. While there is no monthly subscription charges for using NFC, there are other costs to be incurred such as NFC SIM card cost and service activation fees. We've put together a table to help you better understand what each telco has to offer and which payment service options are they compatible with. If you are interested to jump on the NFC bandwagon, this is a must-read.


Smart Wallet Mobile NFC Apps

There are dedicated apps for different service providers, with the exception of SingTel which relies on the EZ-Link app. All apps can be easily downloaded via Google Play. Do note that the EZ Link app does work seamlessly with both the StarHub and M1 variants of their mobile wallet apps when installed. The EZ-Link app can also be used in conjunction with these apps for convenient over-the-air top-ups, as well as for checking your transaction history.

StarHub SmartWallet M1 Mobile Wallet EZ-Link App


User Set-Up Guides

The three telcos have quite detailed user guides to their respective NFC payment services. Below are the links: 

M1 SingTel StarHub
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