Status bars

The group behind NFC wants to make sure you know what it is, and that you know you're using it

As more and more of us start taking advantage of NFC — that's Near-Field Communication, or the standard that lets you tap your phone to some other device to establish a connection, exchange data, etc. — we're increasingly getting the following question: "What is that weird symbol taking up space at the top of my phone?

N-MarkThat, folks, is the almighty NFC logo.

So here's the deal: On a good many phones these days, the symbol will be present up top — that's called the "status bar," actually — when NFC is turned on. Same as if you're using Wifi or Bluetooth, for example. So in that respect it's really not any more annoying than either of those.

And in case you were wondering, it's got an actual name. Say hello to "N-Mark."

The idea, according to the NFC Forum, is this:

"The proliferation of oNFC tags that are accompanied by the N-Mark as a touchpoint will build consumer awareness of NFC tags as sources of valuable, exclusive information and new ways to enrich their lives."

But on the other hand, it's one more thing taking up space up there. And depending on your phone manufacturer, space may well be at a premium. In the image you see above, we've used four phones from four manufactures — the Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One M8, Nexus 5 (a Google phone, technically) and the Motorola Moto X (scaled up to 1080px). NFC was enabled on all four devices, but only two of them display the icon. Some phones let you show battery percentage, taking up more room. Putting your phone in vibrate or silent mode may take up another spot or two.

But, wait! You want to see the N-Mark! The NFC Forum says so!

"Increasingly, consumers will go from simply recognizting the N-Mark to actively seeking it out. This in turn will increase adoption and generate greater global demand for NFC Forum-compliant solutions."

We don't know about that. But we do know this: That weird looking N or sideways Z? That's N-Mark. That's NFC.

More: NFC Forum (pdf)