Compatibility Issues with Mifare Classic 1K NFC Tags ——Reasons Why Nexus 4, Nexus 10, Samsung Galaxy S4, & New (2013) Nexus 7 Cannot Completely Read the Tags

Mifare-Classic-1K-NFC-tag-rfid-blogMany users of the Nexus 4, Nexus 10, Samsung Galaxy S4 and the new 2013 Nexus 7 Tablet have reported the problem of NFC compatibility with the Mifare Classic 1K NFC tags. Here is the reason why they are not compatible:

As is known, NXP is a world-leading manufacturers of NFC hardware which is widely used for a great many Android phones. The NFC Forum was established to create protocols for NFC, so that any hardware and any microchip (NFC tag) that adheres to this protocol will be compatible. The Mifare Classic 1K chip is created by NXP specifically to be compatible with its hardware and not necessarily to adhere to the protocols. Since the chip is designed to be compatible with NXP’s hardware, this means it is compatible with the MAJORITY NFC-enabled devices but not necessarily compatible with ANY phone that uses other manufacturer’s hardware.

The four devices mentioned above (Nexus 4, Nexus 10, Galaxy S4, and the new 2013 Nexus 7) use a different manufacturer’s NFC hardware (Broadcom). Since only chips which adhere to the NFC Forum’s protocols are completely compatible and the Mifare Classic chips are not, thus it is not totally compatible with the Broadcom NFC hardware which can ONLY read off the UID (unique identifier) in a Mifare Classic chip and cannot write to them at all or read anything else that has been written to them.

But that doesn’t mean Mifare Classic tags cannot be used at all with the four devices. Since the UID can be detected and read, Mifare Classic chips can be used with these devices with the help of an app such as Automatelt and ReTag which simply uses a tag’s UID to trigger tasks saved on the device. But if you want to create tags to share information with others, you’ll need universally compatible tags that you can write to and can be read by anyone.

Is there any NFC tags that are fully compatible with these devices? The answer is YES. Any NFC tag that complies with the NFC Forum’s protocol will be compatible with these devices and there are plenty of them! Yet the more memory they have, the more expensive they are.

■NTAG203 tag: with 137 bytes of memory

■Topaz 512 tag: with 450 bytes of memory

Although they have far less memory than the 700 bytes found on the Mifare Classic 1K tag, this is more than enough for most apps which only record a small amount of info on a tag that ties the tag to the specific app and then allows the app to store the various settings and events.

At present, the NTAG203 tag remains the most popular NFC Forum tag and it should be able to use by most tasks triggering apps, while the Topaz 512 tag has plenty of memory for full electronic business card info but costs a little more. These tags are referred to as “Universal” NFC tags because they are universally compatible with ALL NFC devices.

So if you want the tags to be read by anyone, you’ll probably want to go with the NTAG203 or Topaz 512 NFC tags since they are compatible with all NFC-enabled devices. If you are using the Samsung Tectile app, you definitely do not want to use NTAG203 or Topaz 512 tags, for the Tectile app takes up much more memory than the NTAG203 chip can afford.

But how can I find out how much data I need for a specific tag? Many NFC apps, such as NFC Smart Q, will let you know how much memory you need for things you want to do by creating tags (without actually having tags).

So far, the compatibility issues only affect the Nexus 4, Nexus 10, Samsung Galaxy S4, and the new 2013 Nexus 7. But it might affect other devices if other companies decide to use NFC hardware not made by NXP.