Sony Xperia S NFC Xperia SmartTags explained

One of the new features coming to the Sony Xperia S is NFC. NFC is great where you have an infrastructure that supports it, but what if you have no use for NFC?

Well, Sony (née Sony Ericsson) have put NFC to use in automating tasks on your new Xperia S phone. The system works through a series of tags, conveniently known as Xperia SmartTags. 

The idea isn't essentially new, but it isn't one that we've seen so readily supported in smartphones in the past.

The Xperia SmartTag is literally a little tag you can place where you want - you can stick it the wall, next to your bed, in the car, anywhere. The Xperia S will then be able to detect these SmartTags and react accordingly. As the SmartTag needs no power, you can literally place them where you want. 

It looks like a simple system, from the time we've spent with it on the new Sony Xperia S. Some smartphones, such as HTC Android devices, will offer things dock modes that change the profile of the phone when you tell it to, or when slotted into the appropriate dock.

On the Xperia S, things are simpler. You simply place a SmartTag and then set the profile up using the menu on the phone. Then, using NFC to trigger the change, you simply have to touch the phone to the tag and that's it. 

So, for example, you could have a SmartTag in your car to turn on Bluetooth, turn off Wi-Fi, open Navigation, increase the brightness and so on. 

Other examples we've seen in action are to trigger music playback with a Bluetooth speaker and as a bedside clock, but as the set-up menu is fairly detailed, you can do what you like. It can't do everything, but as far as changing profiles - screen brightness, volume, opening applications - it can potentially save a lot of messing around.

For example, you could have a SmartTag by your front door so you can set your phone for when you go out running. You could have one at your desk at work to select silent and opening up Pocket-lint.com so you can follow all the gadget news.

Sony tells us that you'll be able to buy a pack of four SmartTags for around £10, but that O2 will be supplying them with the phone if you take it from them.

However, you'll only be able to use a maximum of four SmartTags from Sony, so buying extra kits won't expand the system, as each red tag is identified as the same, for example. 

So, whilst we're all waiting to start paying for coffee with our phones, at least you can get automating and it's nice to see NFC being put to some use.

The Sony Xperia S is expected to land at the beginning of March and we'll be bringing you a full review as soon as we can. If you're interested in the Sony Xperia S check-out our hands-on with all the details and our first impressions.