How to Enable and Use NFC Tag Reader on your iPhone

Vishnu

Did you know that your iPhone is equipped with an NFC chip that enables compatible iOS apps to connect with and read data from real-world objects? This has a range of uses, from payments to instant wireless connections and more.

What Is NFC?

NFC stands for Near Field Communication. This allows the iPhone to turn into both a key card and card reader. What this means is that the iPhone can store your credit card information so that you can make contactless payments without ever needing to remember your wallet.

what is NFC

To know how NFC works, you need to tap your iPhone to any compatible device to interact with it. This means you can tap your iPhone to another compatible smartphone, and do activities like trade contact information, pay a friend back for a meal, or even tap it against compatible card readers to unlock doors, and soon to come, unlocking your car just by tapping your phone on it!

This is exactly what NFC technology aims to help with. And it’s so simple to use!

What is an NFC Tag?

An NFC tag is a passive device that can store and transmit data without having a power source of its own. These tags passively use power from the NFC reader and wirelessly transmit data. That’s why you find them on things like credit cards, no power source is needed to store and transmit a small amount of data.

When you write and store data on an NFC tag or card, any NFC reader-enabled device can read from the tag and do actions based on that. If you are using an iPhone 6 or later, you can read and write NFC tags quickly.

The NFC tags don’t come only in the shape of credit cards. You can buy NFC tags in forms like wristbands, stickers, tags, and even rings.

What is an NFC tag reader?

An NFC tag is a passive device that can store and transmit data without having a power source of its own. These tags passively use power from the NFC reader and wirelessly transmit data. That’s why you find them on things like credit cards, no power source is needed to store and transmit a small amount of data.

What is an NFC Chip

When you write and store data on an NFC tag or card, any NFC reader-enabled device can read from the tag and do actions based on that. If you are using an iPhone 6 or later, you can read and write NFC tags quickly.

The NFC tags don’t come only in the shape of credit cards. You can buy NFC tags in forms like wristbands, stickers, tags, and even rings.

What is an NFC tag reader?

Near Field Communication let’s your iPhone interact with nearby devices to complete an action or exchange data. Supported devices can use it to read information from electronic tags.

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iPhone NFC Tag Reader

Using an NFC tag reader, you can shop, activate locks, open doors, and visually interact with any NFC-supported device with ease. From iOS 14, it is super easy to access it from the iPhone’s Control Center.

NFC tag reader-supported iPhones

  • iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
  • iPhone 8 and 8 Plus
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone XS and XS Max
  • iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max.
  • iPhone SE (2020)
  • iPhone 12, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max, and 12 Mini
  • iPhone 13, 13 Pro, 13 Pro Max, and 13 Min

* List is updated at the time of writing this article. It is safe to assume any future iPhones will support NFC.

How to add NFC to the iPhone Control Center

  1. Open Settings on your iPhone.
  2. Go to Control Center.
  3. Scroll down to the More Controls group and tap on the green + on the left side of the NFC Tag Reader.
    iPhone Enable NFC Tag Reader
  4. Swipe up on your screen to launch the Control Center.
  5. Tap the NFC tag reader icon, which looks like live waves.
    iPhone NFC Tag Reader Control Center

You can add the NFC tag reader option to the Control Center only on iPhone 7 till iPhone X. On XR, XS, and later, there is no need to add this button thanks to Background Tag Reading which automatically kicks in when you bring these newer iPhones near an NFC tag.

How to use NFC tag reader in iOS?

Open your iPhone’s Control Center. Tap NFC Tag Reader to access it. Then, hold your iPhone near a valid NFC tag to scan the content.

App Clips are another significant feature of the iPhone. It improves the functionality of the NFC tag reader by allowing you to use product services without downloading full applications.

App Clips work with Apple Pay services, allowing users to access NFC tags and make payments without providing credit card details.

App Clips are effectively a simplified form of an app related to a specific purpose. Apple has added App clips to iOS 14/15 as a new feature. Retail brands will be able to employ NFC tags to enable immediate access to mini maps using this feature.

In order to find app clips in the real world, you can use bar codes and NFC codes. You can also use the specially created App Clip code, which is a combination of both. It may be scanned with your iPhone camera as a QR code or detected with a tap, similar to NFC tags.

That’s exactly what iOS 14’s NFC tag reader does, detecting the App Clip by reading the NFC tag or the App clip code. NFC codes are faster than barcodes since they do not need you to scan them.

iOS 15 is considered to be a breakthrough for NFC-supported functionalities on your iPhone. With the help of App Clips, it’s easier to make Apple Pay transactions than iOS 13 generations.

How to Trigger an iOS Shortcut with Your NFC Tag?

The easiest way to use an NFC tag is with an action from your Shortcuts app. Shortcuts are already pretty fast to use, but this way, you can turn off your lights or even send a custom message just by tapping your iPhone on an NFC tag.

NFC Shortcut iPhone

To add a shortcut to a specific NFC tag:

  • Open the Shortcuts app on your iPhone
  • Tap on the Automation tab at the bottom of your screen.
  • Tap on Create Personal Automation.
  • Scroll down and select NFC.
  • Tap on Scan.
  • Put your iPhone near the NFC tag.
  • Enter a name for your tag.
  • Tap on Add Action.
  • Select the action you want your iPhone to do when you tap the tag. You can select actions you already created or create new ones.
  • Once you selected your action, tap on Next in the top right corner.
  • If you want your action to run automatically, make sure to toggle Ask Before Running OFF.
  • Tap Done.
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And you are done. Now, you can test your tag by placing your iPhone near the tag. If you want, you can change the action in the Shortcuts app.

Something to keep in mind is that you’ll be the only one whose iPhone will complete the action when near this tag. If you want a different iPhone or another device to do the same action, you’ll need to repeat the same steps on that device.

Below are the steps to follow on how to program the tag for anyone to use.

How to Program NFC Tags for Anyone to Use?

To program your tags from your iPhone, you’ll also need an app. There are many NFC apps in the App Store, but the recommended ones that you start with are NFC TagWriter by NXP or NFC Tools. Both work the same way, so you shouldn’t have a problem with either app.

NFC Tag Writer App iPhone

We will be using NFC Tools in this example.

  1. Install and open the NFC Tools app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap the Write option.
  3. From the next screen, tap Add a Record option.
  4. Select the type of data you want to write. You’ll see a list with a bunch of options available. You can choose to open a URL, send a text or open a file. For this example, choose the URL, but you can change it later.
  5. Enter the URL you want to open. In this example, let’s use https://weather.com as an example.
  6. Now, tap Ok.
  7. Next, go back to the Write main menu, the previous screen, and you should see your new action.
  8. Tap the Write button.
  9. When the NFC scanning popup appears, touch the NFC tag on top of your iPhone, and you’re done

Now, you have successfully programmed an NFC tag using your iPhone with the type of data you want. You can get out of the app and give your NFC tag a test. Now, anyone can use your tag without any extra steps. If you want to change your NFC tag, go back to the app and tap Other.

Password Protect NFC Tag Using iPhone

There is no limit to the number of times you can rewrite data on an NFC tag. That means if you program an NFC tag and install it in a public place, anybody can rewrite and add something else to it. The best measure to prevent this is to lock the NFC card. However, it will permanently disable the NFC tag from rewriting ever again. Hopefully, we can password protect an NFC tag temporarily.

  1. Open NFC Tools on your iPhone.
  2. Go to Other and tap Set Password.
  3. Enter a password and tap OK.
  4. Now, touch the NFC tag on your iPhone to lock it with a password.
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NFC Password Protect iPhone

Once you set a password to the NFC tag, no one else will be able to write anything to the NFC tag unless the password is removed. You can remove passwords with NFC programming apps like NFC Tools, but you need to know the password first.

Permanently Lock NFC Tag from iPhone

Locking an NFC tag with a password temporarily locks the access to write data until the password is removed. However, to lock the NFC tag permanently and disable it from rewriting ever again, follow the steps below.

  1. Open the NFC Tools app on your iPhone and tap Other.
  2. Choose the Lock tag option.
    Lock NFC Tag iPhoneLock NFC Tag iPhone
  3. Tap Lock from the popup warning.
  4. Now, scan the NFC tag on your iPhone to lock.

Once you lock the tag, it becomes non-writable anymore. So, make sure you write what information needs on the tag first before locking, or the NFC tag will become unusable.

Why Is My iPhone Not Reading NFC Tags?

There are several scenarios that make the iPhone NFC tags not work properly or detect as expected. Whether you are trying to run an iPhone automation or read directly from a tag, here are some of the reasons that might cause some unexpected issues;

  • The iPhone is not unlocked after a reboot or update.
  • An NFC trigger is already running and not finished.
  • The camera is running.
  • Apple Pay wallet is opened.
  • Airplane mode is enabled.
  • NFC is not turned on from the control center. This applies mostly to the older iPhone models.

NFC detection on your iPhone will not properly work when you are in the above-mentioned scenarios. However, in normal cases, the issue may occur due to issues at the software or hardware level. Try resetting or updating your iPhone to see if a software bug caused the issue. If you recently got your iPhone display replaced, an NFC issue may rarely occur, for which you will have to get back to the service center again.

Conclusion

When devices are within a few feet of one another, they can communicate wirelessly via Near Field Communication (NFC). It can read data from electronic tags connected to real-world objects via NFC scanning on compatible devices. As an alternative to QR codes, NFC is a viable option.

You can pay with a smartphone or smartwatch or get boarding passes, for example. And because more places are beginning to use NFC, your iPhone will be able to do even more soon. This means more places where you can use your phone to make payments. The days of carrying wallets full of payment cards will be no more!

Using NFC tag scanners on your iPhone, you can unlock the full power of App Clips. App Clips is a new feature that was introduced in iOS 14. It enhances NFC Tag Reader’s capabilities by permitting you to access goods and services without having to download entire programs. App Clips are compatible with Apple Pay. This implies that customers may now use NFC tags to make payments without having to provide credit card information.

With all the latest implementations, this is all great news for those who tend to forget important items at home when they go out. If you’ve used the feature in iOS 13, you’ll really appreciate the new shortcut and the implementation of App Clips on the recent iOS devices.

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