How to use NFC Tag with iPhone

Are you facing difficulty in using the NFC tags on Iphone? Then you have landed on the right page to gather step by step knowledge on how to use NFC tags on your device. Reading NFC tags is not the same as that of Android smartphones. In case Google’s android phones there is no requirement of any external app to be installed for you to detect and read the NFC tags, whereas Apple’s Iphone is having a bit of a slower start and requires you to install a 3rd party app to perform the desirable action. While using it on Iphone, a basic question may arise about how much support can Iphone have for reading and writing, or will the NFC tags depend on your Iphones models and operating system as well?

With every upgraded version of iOS and the next generation of Iphones, Apple has launched they changed the NFC tags scanning and writing support, and it is believed that with new future releases, further changes can be seen.

NFC hardware is only available in Iphone 7 and above, earlier versions of Iphones were ot equip with the NFC hardware and does not have any NFC tags readers.

Let’s try to learn how reading NFC tags in Iphone is different for different versions..

How to read NFC Tags on iPhone Xs, Xr, 11, 11 Pro, 12 or 12 Pro

The Iphone Xs and Xr were the first Iphones which were induced with the feature of ‘Background Tag Scanning’ native support for reading NFC tags. And so next generation Iphone i.e. Iphone 11, Iphone 11 Pro, Iphone 12 and 12 Pro were continued with functionality of NFC tags. This facility allows the Iphone to automatically detect and scan the NFC tags immediately as they come in the devices close proximity, without any requirement of additional apps.

The basic requirement for you to run the NFC tags on iphone is that it must run iOS11 or later and also NFC tag should be pre-encoded with a web link. If the NFC tags are not encoded before handed then your Iphone will not respond at all. Also no further app can help you read these tags.

As of iOS13, these phones can also write to NFC tags with an appropriate App.

How to read NFC Tags on iPhone 7, 8 or X

Reading NFC tags using Iphone 7,8 or X, depends on the version of the operating system you are using. Let’s have a look at how NFC tags have version dependencies for Iphone 7, 8 or X.

iOS 14

If your Iphone is equipped with the latest iOS14 operating system, then you have an advantage of reading the NFC tags natively with the in-built reader. Simply switch on the NFC scan mode from Control Centre, click and hold the top edge of the phone over the tag.

iOS 13

As we know NFC tags were first introduced in Iphone 7 and till iOS 13, Iphones did not have the functionality to read the NFC tags natively, which means that as these generation Iphones were not able to read the NFC tags, they can’t perform the action out of the box. They required an additional app to be installed for them to read the NFC tags.

Now, as we know how NFC tags are dependent on the Iphone version, let’s dig deeper to know which Iphone is best for reading the NFC tags.

Which iPhone App is the best for reading NFC tags on iOS 13 or earlier ?

NXp’s Taginfo or NXP’s NFC launch apps are the two recommendations from Seritag. Taginfo is a fully featured app compared to the NFC launch which is quite a lightweight app, simply configured for reading a we b link from an NFC tag.

After Apple announced that NFC tag scanning was getting enabled in iOS11, numerous NFC Apps started flowing from all directions and appeared on the App store. Some of these apps have very nice credibility but some are not as reliable. Before downloading any such app do keep in mind that if you are running the latest iOS 14 software, you won’t need any external app to be downloaded for reading NFC tags, you can simply open the Control Centre and turn on NFC scan mode.

There were two reasons why Seritag recommended the NXP apps to be used for NFC tag reading. Firstly to let you know NXP is a microchip company similar to Intel, that you would have definitely heard of. NXP manufactures almost all the NFC chips that are used in the NFC tags.

Second reason is the solid, reliable and well featured android apps manufactured by NXP i.e. Tagwriter and Taginfo. And so it is expected from them to develop apps the same way for Iphone. NXP’s Taginfo app for Iphone is free to download from the App store.

Requirements of Iphone for NFC Tags

If you are using Iphone any other than the XS, XS Max, XR, 11 or 12 then for you to read NFC tags, the basic requirement is to install the iOS 14 or iOS 11 or later and an App.

As we already mentioned earlier in the article that NFC tag scanning is only available on the Iphone 7 and later version of the phone. In case you are still using the Iphone 6 or earlier version then you do have the ability to read the NFC tags.

Tag Requirements

Iphones that support the reading of NFC tags can actually scan a wide range of NFC tags that include the NFC forum Type 2 tags, which consist of popular NTAG®, MIFARE® and ICODE® series chips.  Let’s not get much into the technicalities of each tag, but as a recommendation you can use the NTAG® based tag.

NFC tags are required to be encoded with data, like a web address (URL) before they can be scanned. You will not receive any response from your Iphone if the tags are not encoded.

Tag Writing or Encoding

Iphones can use the NFC tags, but only when they are properly encoded with the data within the main memory space. Technically speaking there is a universally accepted data structure called NFC Data Exchange Format abbreviated as NDEF for correct encoding of the NFC tags.

With the latest launch from Iphone of Operating system iOS13, the Iphone 7 and later version are able to detect the unique ID of the tag, encode them and can also perform additional tag functions.

There are available options for you to test and open a web address on a tag.

  1. Web address can be encoded onto the tags at the time of purchase, this can be done taking help from Seritag that can do this very easily
  2. Use of Android encoding apps in advance to encode the tags
  3. Download and install a suitable encoding App for your Iphone

As mentioned, the tags do need to be encoded with NDEF data which means that blank tags won’t do anything. You will get no response at all. Steps to be followed.

Step 1: Get your NFC Tags

In case your device does not already have NFC tags, then it is quite easy to buy these NFC tags online from Seritag. There are many varieties of NFC tags available in the market and if you are not able to select the tags, you can simply get mid-sized NTAG213.

Step 2: Install the App

You can select any app from the app store, as  they are free of cost and install the same just like any other app.

Step 3: Scan A Tag

Simply hold the top area of the phone over any NFC tag you want to discover. You will get a very quick response from the NFC tag but in case it is not happening there is definitely something wrong. You are not required to touch the tag, but only be in proximity of the tag to detect.

Generally a normal NFC tag does not work on metal surfaces.

Step 4: View Contents

You can now see the contents of the tag and can launch if desired. It is quite simple.

Step 5: Change Settings

NXP will keep on developing the App and add additional features. At the time of writing codes there are two settings. First is the ‘Auto Scan on App Launch’ that will allow you to scan the NFC tag without any need to manually open the app.

Second is the ‘Auto Launch Tag Actions’ that will perform the desired action with the contents of the tag automatically.  Like if an NFC tag contains a web address  (URL) then the auto launch will open a browser on your phone.

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