How to Select the Right NFC Tag

To select the right NFC tag for your end-use, you should take into account the required:


1. Tag Size

The physical size of the NFC inlay might significantly affect its performance in the end-use. It’s important to select the right-sized product for each specific application, neither too small nor too large. Testing different tag sizes in the actual end-use environment usually gives the best reference for project planning.


2. Tag Capacity / Memory Size

Memory size should also be comparable to the requirements of the solution, not too large or too small. If the aim is to encode a simple 126-character web-link in the tag, for example, 1152 bits/144 bytes (NXP NTAG 213) might easily be sufficient; shorter web links of up to 36 characters might be sufficiently served with 384 bits/48 bytes (NXP MIFARE Ultralight). However, if the aim is to make business cards in Vcard format, MIFARE Classic 1k remains the best option, as it supports enough fields.


3. Material Onto Which the Tag Is Applied

  • Printed materials (poster, postcard)
    End-users don’t know where the tag is located unless you mark it in some way; mark the location of the tag with a picture or preferably with the NFC Forum logo, which is globally standardized.

  • Through-window use / billboard
    Window thickness, materials, surface coatings and laminations can vary greatly and affect reading performance outside the window. Be sure to supply good instructions for locating the NFC tag in the end-user environment, and have reference materials available with both recommended and inadvisable locations for window stickers.

  • Robust NFC label solutions for apparel (washable, woven labels, hangtags) are available from specialist converters. Ask for more information via SMARTRAC.

  • Outdoor, weatherproof option (with protective lamination)
    Plan beforehand whether the tag needs to be weatherproof or if it can be placed indoors. Outdoor tags are more vulnerable to vandalism and direct hits, which might affect the tag’s memory chip.


  • Embedding tag inside a product (wood, plastic, textile, electronics)


One of the great benefits of NFC tags is that they can be embedded inside objects like plastic covers, textiles or wooden elements, and they don’t require a line of sight. However, please make sure that there is a slot/housing reserved for the NFC inlay where it can stay in a dry, flat position without external pressure. Typically in the product design phase, such as for electronics accessories, it would be good to consider where the tag will be placed inside the product to enable the most convenient user experience and ensure optimal product performance.

For example, when there is a metal object near the NFC tag’s antenna, a high-performance magnetic sheet is required in the NFC tag to avoid communication failure. If you need more information or would like to buy ferrite NFC tags, our partners can help you find the ferrite tag solution best suited to your needs.


4. NFC Forum Type (1, 2, 3, 4)

The NFC Forum Type Tag platform is a container for storing NDEF messages, which guarantees co-existence with existing product applications. The NFC Forum Type Tag platform is product independent, though there are compatible products. 


The NFC Forum Type Tag Platform shouldn’t be confused with the NFC Forum Type Tag Operation Specifications. These four documents describe how an NFC Forum Device operates in the NFC Forum Type 1-4 Tag platform, ensuring that the user experience for the service initiation of, e.g. a Smart Poster, is consistent.


Note: Similar to the NFC Forum Type Tag Platform, NXP has specified an additional Type Tag Platform based on the MIFARE Classic family. The NXP-specific Type Tag Platform can store NDEF Messages, guaranteeing co-existence with existing product applications related to the MIFARE Classic family products.


The Product (NFC Forum Tag)

Each NFC Forum Type Tag Platform has been built on top of existing products available off-the-shelf. These products are usually contactless tags referred to in NFC Forum terminology as NFC Forum Tags.


Table 1, NFC Forum Type Tag Platforms and related products:

NFC Forum Platform Compatible Products
1 NFC Forum Type 1 Tag Broadcom Topaz
2 NFC Forum Type 2 Tag NXP MIFARE Ultralight, NXP MIFARE Ultralight C, NXP NTAG 213
3 NFC Forum Type 3 Tag Sony FeliCa
4 NFC Forum Type 4 Tag NXP DESFire, NXP SmartMX with JCOP or other compatible contactless products

Table 2, Comparison of the different products compatible with the NFC Forum (Type Tag) Platforms

  NFC Forum Platform Type 1 Tag NFC Forum Platform Type 2 Tag NFC Forum Platform Type 3 Tag NFC Forum Platform Type 4 Tag
Compatible Products Broadcom Topaz NXP MIFARE Ultralight, NXP MIFARE Ultralight C, NXP NTAG 213 Sony FeliCa NXP MIFARE DESFire / NXP SmartMX-JCOP
Memory Size 96 Bytes 48 Bytes / 144 Bytes 1, 4, 9 KB 4 KB /32 K
Unit Price Low Low High Medium I High
Data Access Read/Write or Read-Only Read/Write or Read-Only Read/Write or Read-Only Read/Write or Read-Only
Active Content X x / x X x / P
Operation Specifications TYPE 1 TAG TYPE 2 TAG TYPE 3 TAG TYPE 4 TAG
NXP Supporting Documents - NXP T2T - NXP T4T
NXP Product Datasheets - NXP MIFARE Ultralight, NXP MIFARE Ultralight C, NXP NTAG 213 - NXP DES