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Use NFC tags with Windows Phone 8

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This article explains how to use Proximity API to manipulate NFC tags.

WP Metro Icon NFC.png
WP Metro Icon WP8.png
Article Metadata
Code Example
Source file: Media:NFCTag.zip
Tested withCompatibility
Platform(s): Windows Phone 8
Windows Phone 8
Keywords: Windows Phone 8, NFC, Tag, RFID, NDEF, Proximity API
Created: yan_ (30 Nov 2012)
Last edited: influencer (10 Jan 2013)



NFC stands for Near Field Communication - a form of short-range radio communication based on RFID standards in which a connection is established by bringing two devices into close proximity. NFC has a number of uses including contactless payment/transaction systems, data transfer between devices and simplified connection of other forms of wireless communication (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, etc.). In addition to these uses, NFC allows for small, passive (i.e. un-powered) 'tags' to be read from and written to by active (powered) NFC devices - with the power the tag requires being drawn from the active device.

Like NFC will become more and more present in your life, Windows Phone 8 SDK added NFC support with the Proximity API. This article covers the manipulation of NFC tags with said API.

Tip.pngTip: This API is a part of WinPRT API; you can use it from both managed and native code. To instantiate a delegate with native code, read Delegates (C++/CX)

NFC Chipsets

NFC tags use RFID passive chipset. This chipset can be produced with different technology and available memory. To help you to choose a NFC tag type, this table overview NFC Tags type with their principal characteristics.

Name Available memory URL length Text length NFC Class Windows Phone 8 support
Ultralight (UL) 48 bytes 41 characters 39 characters Type 2 yes (?)
Ultralight C (ULC) 148 bytes 132 characters 130 characters Type 2 yes (?)
NTAG203 144 bytes 132 characters 130 characters Type 2 yes (?)
MiFare 1K 1024 bytes 256 characters 709 characters Classic (1) yes
Fudan F08 1024 bytes  ?
DESFire EV1 2k 2048 bytes Type 4 yes (?)
DESFire EV1 4k 4096 bytes Type 4 yes (?)
DESFire EV1 8k 8192 bytes Type 4 yes (?)
Sony FeliCa 4K 4096 bytes Type 3 yes (?)
Sony FeliCa Lite 224 bytes Type 3 yes (?)
Topaz 512 bytes Type 1 yes

Unfortunately, I have tested only MiFare 1Kb and Topaz 512 bytes type and I do not know which tags are supported by Windows Phone. You can find more information here: Nfc Tag.

Windows Phone 8 supports only NDEF formatted tags. NDEF are NFC Data Exchange Format (NDEF) messages. You can find more information here: Understanding NFC Data Exchange Format (NDEF) messages. To buy NFC tags, you can find a list of retailers on XDA Wiki.

If your tag is not formatted you can use a NFC writer or an Android device + NFC TagWriter by NXP application.

Warning.pngWarning: Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 don't support MiFare 1K tags.

(?) These tags are normally compatible with Windows Phone. Confirmation pending.

Limitations with Windows Phone 8

Since Proximity API gives only high level access to the NFC protocol and Windows Phone adds some protection on top of that, your interaction with NFC tags is limited:

  • You cannot enable the write lock. How can I lock / write protect NFC Tags?]
  • You cannot format a tag. Your tag must be formatted for NDEF message.
  • Your tag can contain only an NDEF message.
  • You cannot use all tag memory. NDEF formatting data and other private tag data take memory. Because of the fact that a tag has only a few bytes of memory, this data size is important. For example, you can only write 716 bytes on a tag with a memory of 1024 bytes and 454 bytes on a tag with a memory of 512 bytes.
  • Proximity API does not give tools to manipulate directly NDEF messages. To manipulate raw NDEF messages you can use NDEF Library for Proximity APIs (NFC).
  • You cannot receive or write a tag when your application runs in background.

Tag Manipulation

To enable NFC in your application you must edit Properties -> WMAppManifest.xml file and check ID_CAP_PROXIMITY in Capabilities tab.


To read and write a NFC tag you must use the ProximityDevice class. To access this object you must use the static function ProximityDevice.GetDefault(). If this method returns null, your device does not support NFC.

ProximityDevice device = ProximityDevice.GetDefault();
if(device == null)
MessageBox.show(" No NFC device fund");

If NFC is a requirement, you can limit your application to Windows Phone device with NFC capability. edit Properties -> WMAppManifest.xml file and check ID_REQ_NFC in Requirements tab.


Once you have access toProximityDevice, you can use two interesting events to be notified when a NFC communication is available:

  • DeviceArrived : Occurs when the device enters in contact with a device/tag.
  • DeviceDeparted : Occurs when the device loses the contact with a device/tag.

Subscribe to read a NFC Tag

To receive data you must register a callback handler with the SubscribeForMessage method:

long subscribedMessageId = device.SubscribeForMessage("Windows.SampleMessage", messageReceivedHandler);
void messageReceivedHandler(ProximityDevice device, ProximityMessage message)
// Write message parsing code here...

This method takes two parameters:

  • protocol: selects which NFC message you want to receive.
  • handler: used to receive data.

If successful, an ID is returned. This ID is used to unsubscribe your handler with the StopSubscribingForMessage method:


When a message is received, binary data is accessible by the ProximityMessage handler parameter.

Warning.pngWarning: To receive a message, you must perform your subscription before the ProximityDevice.DeviceArrived event is fired, or user must remove the tag and repeat the operation.

Publish to write a NFC Tag

To write a tag, you must use the PublishBinaryMessage method.

long publishedMessageId=   proximityDevice.PublishBinaryMessage(   "LaunchApp:WriteTag", buffer, messageWrittenHandler);
void messageWrittenHandler (ProximityDevice sender, long publishedMessageId)
// The LaunchApp message has been successfully written to a tag.

Parameters are :

  • protocol: selects which NFC message you want to write.
  • data: binary data
  • handler (optional): used to know if data has been written. Second parameter is the publisher ID given by PublishBinaryMessage method.

Like SubscribeForMessage, this method returns an ID used to stop publication. To stop the publication, your must use ProximityDevice.StopPublishingMessage.

void messageWrittenHandler (ProximityDevice sender,  long publishedMessageId)
//message have been written, stop publishing

Tip.pngTip: Unlike the "read" action, if your device is already in contact with the tag, the message will be written anyway.


When you subscribe or publish a message, you must specify a protocol to target different NFC message. You can find an overview here: List of Protocols. This part will explain these protocols with different use case.

To write a NFC tag you generally contact selected protocol name with :WriteTag.


This protocol is only available for subscription. When your device gets in contact with a writeable NFC tag, the registered handle receives an int32 value. This value is the real tag's writeable capacity.

device.SubscribeForMessage("WriteableTag", WriteableTagHandler);
private void WriteableTagHandler(ProximityDevice sender, ProximityMessage message)
//convert binary to int32
var WritableSize = System.BitConverter.ToInt32(message.Data.ToArray(), 0);


Windows protocol is used to define a custom type to write custom binary data. It is a high level protocol which hides NDEF manipulation. To use it you must specify your custom subtype:

//write byteBuffer to the tag
proximityDevice.PublishBinaryMessage( "Windows:WriteTag.mySubType", byteBuffer, messageWrittenHandler);
device.SubscribeForMessage("Windows.mySubType", messageReceivedHandler);
void messageReceivedHandler(ProximityDevice device, ProximityMessage message)
// get binary data received
var byteBuffer = message.Data;

Note.pngNote: The subtype is a string of alphanumeric characters and any of the valid URI characters as defined by RFC 3986: - . _~ : / ? # [ ] @ ! $ & ‘ ( ) * + , ; = %. This string cannot exceed a length of 250 characters.


WindowsUri protocol is used to read and write URI. It is a high level protocol which interfaces a NDEF URI message.

Note.pngNote: URI is encoded in UTF16-LE.

When you receive an URI, you must convert binary data to string with the UTF16-LE decoder.

device.SubscribeForMessage("Windows.mySubType", messageReceivedHandler);
void messageReceivedHandler(ProximityDevice device, ProximityMessage message)
// get binary data received
var buffer = message.Data.ToArray();
var sUri = Encoding.Unicode.GetString(buffer, 0, buffer.Length);
//remove null character if present
if (sUri[sUri.Length - 1] == '\0')
sUri = sUri.Remove(sUri.Length - 1);

Warning.pngWarning: Windows Phone will always handle "WindowsUri" messages by prompting the user.

When you write an URI, you must convert your string to binary with an UTF16LE encoder.

var uri = new Uri(" http://www.nokia.com/");
//encode uri to UTF16LE.
var buffer = Encoding.Unicode.GetBytes(uri.ToString());
publishId = device.PublishBinaryMessage("WindowsUri:WriteTag", buffer.AsBuffer(), publishHandler);

A NFC tag which contains an URI can perform interesting interactions with Windows Phone:

Action URI format
Open a web page URI is an URL. For example http://www.nokia.com/
URI associations Custom URI can launch a specific application. You can read more information here URI associations for Windows Phone 8
Geo tag http://m.ovi.me/?c=<latitude>,<longitude>
[How to Store Geo Coordinates on an NFC Tag]
Launch a driving to a position ms-drive-to:?destination.latitude=<latitude>&destination.longitude=<longitude>
How to request driving or walking directions
Dial a phone number tel:+33600000
Send a mail mailto:doctor@tardis.time
You can add other information like a subject, a body.. For more information see here
Use Nokia music Nokia Music app-to-app protocol for Windows Phone 8
Launching built-in apps and WP8 settings URI schemes for launching built-in apps for Windows Phone 8
Dynamic Tag To generate a Dynamic Tag, you can use HTTP URI which perform an URI Redirection. Rediction can return a new URI or a file like a vcard, image,...
For example read Web Redirection Script


WindowsMime protocol is used to read and write binary data identified by a MIME type. It is a high level protocol which interfaces a NDEF Mime message. The MIME type is optional.

If you don't specify a MIME type, the first 256 bytes contain the MIME type in ASCII terminated by '\0". You must read it to know the format of the following data.

device.SubscribeForMessage("WindowsMime", WindowsMimeHandler);
private void WindowsMimeHandler(ProximityDevice sender, ProximityMessage message)
var buffer = message.Data.ToArray();
int mimesize =0;
//search first '\0' charactere
for(mimesize = 0; mimesize <256 && buffer[mimesize] !=0; ++mimesize)
//extract mimetype
var mimeType = Encoding.UTF8.GetString(buffer, 0, mimesize);
//convert data to string. This traitement depend on mimetype value.
var data = Encoding.UTF8.GetString(buffer, 256, buffer.Length - 256);

If you specify the MIME type, your handle will be called for selected NDEF Mime message and the first 256 bytes will be removed. You get directly the binary data.

device.SubscribeForMessage("WindowsMime.text/plain", WindowsMimeHandler);
private void WindowsMimeHandler(ProximityDevice sender, ProximityMessage message)
//receive text/plain data. Convert it to string
var data = Encoding.UTF8.GetString(buffer, 256, buffer.Length - 256);

Warning.pngWarning: Windows Phone will always handle "WindowsUri" messages by prompting the user.

To write a tag, you must specify the MIME type and you must convert your data to binary correctly.

var buffer = Encoding.UTF8.GetBytes("Who are you?" );
publishId = device.PublishBinaryMessage("WindowsMime:WriteTag.text/plain", buffer.AsBuffer(), publishHandler);

Write a MIME message to a tag adds a few interesting interactions:

Action Mime type Desciption
small picture
  • image/jpeg
  • image/gif
  • image/png
Binary data
contact infomation text/x-vcard VCard data. VCard specification can be found here


This protocol is only available to write a tag. This tag is used to launch a Windows 8 and/or Windows Phone 8 application with arguments. To launch a Windows Phone application, the command is decomposed in three part concatenated by a tab char:

  • Argument: argument passed to the application.
  • WindowsPhone: platform type. It could be Windows or
  • ApplicationId : Windows Phone Application ID.

For example


Note.pngNote: To write the tag correctly, you must convert command line to binary with an UTF16-LE encoder.

 //create a command with launch this application with an argument.
string command ="text=" +NfcMessage.Text+ "\t";
command +="WindowsPhone" + "\t";
command += "{" + Windows.ApplicationModel.Store.CurrentApp.AppId.ToString() + "}";
var byteArray = Encoding.Unicode.GetBytes(command);
publishId = device.PublishBinaryMessage("LaunchApp:WriteTag", byteArray.AsBuffer(), publishHandler);

When your application is launched from an NFC tag, you can get the argument in OnNavigationTo method with the ms_nfp_launchargs key.

 protected override void OnNavigatedTo(System.Windows.Navigation.NavigationEventArgs e)
string parameter = string.Empty;
if (NavigationContext.QueryString.TryGetValue("ms_nfp_launchargs", out parameter))
MessageBox.Show("Congratulation\nYou launch application with a NFC tag.\nParamaters : "+ parameter);

Tip.pngTip: If the application is not installed, Windows Phone will ask to install it.


NDEF protocol is used to manipulate NDEF messages by yourself. When you receive a message, you get the binary NDEF format and when you publish data, you must create a binary NDEF Message. You can use the third party library NDEF Library for Proximity APIs (NFC) for this.

device.SubscribeForMessage("NDEF", NDEFHandler);
private void NDEFHandler(ProximityDevice sender, ProximityMessage message)
var NDefMessage = message.Data;
//write tag
publishId = device.PublishBinaryMessage("NDEF:WriteTag", ndefMessage.ToByteArray().AsBuffer(), publishHandler);

Use it only for an advanced use. For example How to Create Cross-Platform LaunchApp NFC Tags

Note.pngNote: when your uses a muliple-part NDEF message, you must use this protocol to get all parts. Other protocol consume only the first part.

Sample code

You can download a example here : Media:NFCTag.zip.

This application gives a code example for each protocol to read and write NFC tag. In order to build it you must install with NuGet NDEF Library for Proximity APIs (NFC) and Windows Phone Toolkit.

NFCTag write.jpeg NFCTag read.jpeg

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