Apple Unlocks Another Piece of NFC – Enabling Read Operating Mode

There’s exciting news for the NFC ecosystem! The iPhone 7, 7+  as well as the Apple watch, will be christened with NFC tag readability when iOS 11 and Watch OS 4 releases in the fall of 2017. For those active in the ecosystem, it is evident why this turn of events is encouraging for unlocking NFC’s full potential in US markets. But if you’re wondering what the big deal is, here’s some background that will explain the enthusiasm.

For starters, Near Field Communication (NFC) is the short-range wireless connectivity technology that enables the Internet of Things. NFC tags are passive devices used to communicate with active NFC devices. They can be deployed on physical items, which makes for really cool interactions. NFC tags can be programmed and embedded in business cards, smart posters, stickers, wrist bands, clothing and promotional materials. They are extremely useful in the distribution of information and the promotion of products and services. They can also launch tasks, preform configurations, and initiate apps when being tapped by an NFC-enabled device. Unfortunately, the stunted growth of the NFC market has limited our access to the possibility IoT brings. That’s why this shift in Apple’s policy yields promise on the horizon.

Although iPhone 6 and 6+ have been NFC-enabled since 2014, the NFC capability of these devices has been intentionally limited by the company. Meaning that while all other NFC smart phones have been able to exchange data at a short distance as well as read and write information on NFC tags for years, the only NFC functionality accessible to Apple consumers up until this point has been Apple Pay, the company’s proprietary mobile payment application.

How much impact can one company’s adoption have? Let’s look at it this way: Apple shipped 231.5 million iPhones globally in 2015 and 216.4 million in 2016. This is a leading portion of the smart phone market. The impact of limited functionality from iPhone devices sent ripples across the NFC ecosystem. Conversely, Apple’s new inclusion of NFC tag readability in its 2017 updates will open up a new possibility for this technology with many use cases. I’m very excited to see what unfolds in the future.