I backed this project to give myself a birthday present for 2013, since the rings were originally scheduled to ship in October. Yeah, yeah, huge delays, everyone's upset, whatever. The NFC Ring team did a fantastic job keeping us in the loop despite having to work with an annoyingly over-optimistic factory. It sucks, but it would have sucked a lot more if John wasn't the won leading this project. Now that that's out of the way...
I'm putting this first because the shipping speed was really fantastic. I ordered the Collection, so I was among the last to receive my rings. I received a dispatch notification on July 15th, 2014, and today (July 18th, 2014), after getting home from work, I was pleasantly surprised to see my Collection waiting for me! I live in California, so I anticipated a shipping time of 2 weeks because that was what I had heard on the forums. 3 days? Hallelujah!
The general consensus is that NFC Rings look and feel amazing, and I couldn't agree more. The titanium looks brilliant, the inlay (transparent cover) is sexy, and the overall impression is professional. I have never worn a ring for an extended period of time in my life, but wearing my NFC Ring for the past few hours hasn't induced any discomfort whatsoever. If anything comes up I'll update this section, but I don't expect it to. Similarly, I'll update if the visual quality degrades at all.
Reading Ability - ATT Samsung Galaxy S3
I ordered the Collection because I wasn't sure if the normal (7mm) ring would work with my phone. Originally, it wasn't supposed to because like the S4, the Galaxy S3 has its NFC antenna in the phone's battery. However, the near year-long delay changed that, so I can use both my Normal and Alpha rings with my phone! I opened up the NFC Ring Control app, looked at the red hotspot, touched my ring randomly, and BZZZ... it read! Both my Normal and Alpha rings read consistently with no problems. I don't have to worry too much about orienting it in any specific way, as I understand the users of many other phones do.
Soon after backing the project, I sent John a Kickstarter message asking if the NFC Ring would be able to read through my 5mm thick case (I have a large case that extends 5mm from the back of my case, minimum). The answer was a definite "no", so I ordered a smaller case on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008EPVLIS) in the hopes that I'd get lucky. The Rings weren't meant to work through any cases, so I knew it was a long shot. Well, both my Normal and Alpha rings read just fine through my thin case! I've backed another Kickstarter project to remove the need for a case entirely, so I'll only have to use my flimsy case for a little while longer (barring year-long delays ;D). Still, I am very impressed with this ring's performance. I've read a few posts on this forum about people's rings dying and failing to read, so I'll keep an eye (or finger) out and update if it does.
Unlocking my phone
I've spent ~10min trying to figure out the unlock app, but I haven't gotten it to work yet. I'll update this when I have time to try again.
UPDATE: The app gives the option to add a picture. I added one, and suddenly it started working. Weird. My phone is rooted so I plan to do the whole magic-no-unlock_app-unlock thing other people have been doing. I'll let you guys know how it goes.
UPDATE 2: It wasn't too difficult to get the perfect setup going. I get to use Android's normal pattern lock screen, with the added functionality of scanning authorized NFC rings to unlock my phone. Here's how I did it:
0. If you've been using the NFC Ring Unlock app, turn it off and make sure it is NO LONGER IN USE! Don't make things more complicated down the line. Start fresh from a normal Android pattern/PIN lock.
- Root your phone.
- Install the Xposed framework. http://repo.xposed.info/module/de.robv.android.xposed.installer
- Install the NFC unlocking Xposed module. http://forum.xda-developers.com/xposed/modules/mod-nfc-unlocking-based-t2478163
- Install the NXP Writer app off the Google Play store. It's a great NFC app for all your tags. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nxp.nfc.tagwriter&hl=en
- Open the NXP Writer app -> Tools -> Clean ring -> clean the tag you want to use to unlock your phone.
- Open the NFC unlocking module settings and add your tag to the authorized tags list.
- Install version 1.1 of the "Disable NFC tag empty" Xposed module. This gets rid of an annoying little popup opened by the NFC unlocking module. This is why you had to clean the tag in step 5. http://repo.xposed.info/module/com.mohammadag.disablenfctagempty
- Restart your phone and everything should work! Use the Android lock screen you're used to with whatever locking mechanism you're used to, or scan your ring to instantly access your phone.
Sadly, the effective space of the ring is only 137 bytes, not 144 bytes as suggested (http://store.nfcring.com/pages/faqs#faq-ring). It would take 4,592,304 rings to fill a 600MB CD, not 4,369,066 as claimed. That's more than a 200,000 ring difference! This difference prevents me from storing all the information I'd like to on my ring, because my vCard is just slightly over 137 bytes. I've successfully transmitted a uselessly brief vCard to another Galaxy S3, so the functionality at least works, but it lead to some concerns. It was easy enough triggering a read with a fist bump because I knew precisely where to expect the sweet spot. I have no idea where other phones' sweet spots are, and I'm not about to go and memorize them. I have yet to experience this in real life, but I imagine it would be quite embarrassing to "show off" this awesome piece of technology, struggling to get it to read. There's also the issue of cases. Sure, the rings works with my case, but I bought this case specifically because I thought it might work! Everyone I know has a case on their phone, very few of which are as thin as mine. This greatly reduces the number of phones my rings can interact with.
I'm satisfied with how this project turned out. Had last October given me the same three rings I have now, I would have been down right ecstatic, but all things considered, I am at the very least satisfied. I have three stunning, very useful rings and new insights as to how stressful creating a new product can be! I'm excited to see all the new technologies that develop around NFC and the NFC Ring, and I'm glad I got the chance to be a part of it.