Have you ever wondered what makes tap-and-go services like Apple Pay? The turning point was marked when Apple took the “Core NFC” framework mainstream on iPhone 6 and Apple Watch with Apple Pay in autumn 2017 since the arrival of the first Android phone with NFC seven years ago in 2012. Apple has allowed this short-range wireless technology access to iPhone via an NFC reader app for users to read NFC tags. “NFC has been hiding in plain sight,” said Craig Tadlock, founder and CEO of GoToTags. “Most consumers, even those with Android devices, don’t realize that their phones can become this magic wand to search and interact with the physical world.” But what is NFC exactly?
What is NFC?
NFC stands for “Near Field Communication” and, as the name implies, it enables short-range communication between compatible devices and is therefore similar to the well-known Bluetooth technology while requires much less power consumption than Bluetooth. NFC standard is widely adopted by a range of devices, including either passive or active.
Passive NFC devices include tags, and other small transmitters which can send information to other NFC devices by running on very low amounts of power. However, they don’t process any information sent from other sources. Interactive signs on walls or advertisements are the most common form.
Active devices have abilities to both send and receive data, and can communicate with each other as well as with passive devices. Smartphones, Public transport card readers and touch payment terminals are all good examples of the technology, especially the smartphones.
Which iPhones are NFC-enabled?
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were the first Apple iPhone mobile phones with NFC technology built in. However, though payment is available in the iPhone 6/6S via NFC, NFC Tags reading is still limited. Unlike Android, there was no native support within iOS on the 7, 8 or X for reading NFC tags. This means an additional App is needed to scan an NFC tag. However, the latest generation of iPhones, the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR can read NFC tags besides using NFC for payments without an additional App.
Functionality stayed the same with the later introduction of the iPhone 6s, 6s+, and iPhone 5SE. These iPhones had a fully functional NFC chip but Apple continued to keep the functionality locked to Apple Pay.
Apple is expanding NFC functionality even more with iOS 13, due out this fall. With the updates to the core NFC framework, the iPhone’s NFC capabilities will get even more powerful. “Instead of only allowing iPhone apps to read NFC tags, apps will be able to write directly to blank tags, as well as interact with tags through native protocols. This opens up a range of new application possibilities including the ability to create apps that read passports and contactless smart cards and interact with NFC-enabled hardware,” Apple told attendees at its Worldwide Developer Conference last week.
Apple still has a long way to go before the iPhone fully accepts everything NFC offers.
How does NFC work on the iPhone?
Since Apple did not build it into their operating system, you need a suitable NFC reader app to use NFC on your iPhone. Ever Since Apple announced that NFC tag scanning was going to be enabled in iOS 11, a number of new NFC Apps have appeared on the App Store. Some of them work very well while others are a little unreliable.
In the App Store you can download the free app NFC Reader for iPhone. By the way, NFC tag scanning with an App is only available on the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X.
Fortunately, Apple recently updated the iOS software so that the current XS, XS Max and XR iPhones can scan NFC tags without an additional App. If you do have one of the latest generation XS, XS Max or XR iPhones, then to scan an NFC tag all you need to do is hold the phone near an encoded NFC tag. It’s simple and fast. If you do not, then an installed iOS 11 or an additional NFC App is imperative for ensuring read NFC tags.