Remember the days when mobile phones had antennas and you could only send text messages with a certain number of letters? Well, who’d have thought that those humble mobile phones would evolve into devices that could essentially run our lives for us? Smartphones are so much more than just phones, they’re mini computers and now we can even use them to pay for stuff…in shops…amazing.

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But don’t expect to be able to take your ancient Nokia down to the supermarket and pay with that – because you’ll be disappointed. It’s only certain phones with certain tech inside them that can be used. And if you want to know what witchcraft and wizardry your phone needs in order to do this – then it’s called ‘NFC’ or near field communications technology.

NFC is the same tech that powers your contactless debit and credit cards or your Oyster card and in a nutshell, it uses radio waves to transmit data. Only certain handsets have the technology built in to do this such as the Apple iPhone 6 or the Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 Edge and any subsequent models. As well as the right handset, you’ll also need to make sure it has the right software – which is essentially what powers your phone’s brain. At the moment, Android, iOS (Apple) and Samsung software is capable of mobile payments whilst Windows are still in the trial phase.

We’ve all seen the adverts about how convenient it is to just tap and pay with your phone – but who accepts these types of payments and does your bank support it? With Apple Pay, powered by iOS you’ll be able to use your iPhone to pay in stores that have a contactless facility, which includes lots of high street favourites like Boots, Marks & Spencer and Topshop. Most of the big banks such as Barclays, HSBC, Halifax and Santander support it too so you’ll be able to use your phone like a debit card.

If your phone uses Android based software and has NFC technology, then you’ll also be able to use it in shops with a contactless facility. You’ll probably still need to enter a PIN though, because not many Android phones have finger print scanners unlike the iPhones. With Samsung’s mobile payment platform – Samsung Pay – you’ll be able to upload your credit card details (they’ve partnered with Visa and MasterCard) and swipe on your phone to transfer the payment.

It’s all very clever and all very techy but of you still like to believe that your mobile phone is powered by nothing more than magic and pixie dust then that’s fine. But if you want to find out what makes your mobile work, read our guide to network operators, and if you think SIM and PAYG are just anagrams by someone who can’t spell, then why not find out what it all means. Don’t let your smartphone outsmart you – find out everything you need to know and start comparing mobile phones right here at