In a move that we’ve been predicting for a little while, Apple have finally announced that new iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max and iPhone XR will all be able scan NFC tags in the background without having to open an app. The current crop of NFC enabled iPhones 7, 8, and X will still have to first launch an app such as our VerifiR reader app to enable the NFC Reader mode.
Though it appears that there is no technical reason why Apple couldn’t enable backward compatibility with older NFC handsets, it’s unlikely that they will open up the feature to their older devices in future.
So how long will it be before we see a critical mass of people with natively compatible iPhones? Well data suggests that 20-25% of iPhone users in the US upgrade their phones every year. However, there is a very close correlation between the early technology adopters and brand sensitive individuals who buy premium sporting goods and active wear, so it won’t take as long as one might think.
Unlike Android’s current implementation, Apple’s update to NFC will permit tags to be read while the phone screen is on either on home screen or lock screen, which is in many ways a better solution. At present Android devices need to be in an unlocked state to scan a tag. Although unlike with Android handsets, the user will be prompted with a notification asking if they would like to open a suitable App, so it also prevents a user from accidentally brushing over a NFC surface and performing the action accidentally.
As with the introduction of other technologies in the past, when Apple gets onboard, things really start moving on at pace and so this truly marks a huge step forward for NFC technology and one that will likely jump start widespread adoption of NFC tags in countless different market verticals. The new NFC features are helpfully explained in a video on Apple’s developer website which can be seen here https://developer.apple.com/videos/play/tech-talks/702/