Apple NFC: No support for tags or pairing?

Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
NO TAGS? Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus sport NFC hardware but iOS 8 may not support tag reading or writing

An examination of the preview version of iOS 8 shows that there is currently no support in the operating system for NFC tag reading/writing and pairing, according to tag specialist RapidNFC.

“As of the current software release, there isn’t any support for general access to the NFC controller,” RapidNFC’s Phil Coote told NFC World+ after examining the Gold Master version of iOS that was released to developers yesterday. “Clearly, this is a little odd because it might mean that pairing is not supported. However, being able, for example, to read and encode NFC tags is not an option at the moment.”

NFC World+ asked Apple yesterday for confirmation that the new iPhones will support open NFC but has yet to receive a reply.

The inclusion of NFC in the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch is a landmark event for the NFC industry, with phones from all the world’s major manufacturers now supporting the technology.

It had been assumed that with Apple’s adoption of NFC advertisers, marketers, makers of consumer electronics and more would all now be able to use the technology as the default bridge between real world items and the online world. If users and developers cannot use the iPhone’s NFC features for anything other than Apple Pay, however, this could mean that the iPhone continues to lack essential functionality that comes as standard in competing devices.

But the situation may change. “The barrier now would appear to be a software one rather than hardware,” Coote concludes, “so it’s a step in the right direction.”

• If any readers have concrete information on if, when and how Apple will add support for NFC tag reading and peer-to-peer mode, please contact our editorial team or add a comment below.

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8 comments on this article

  1. Wouldn’t it make sense for NXP to be the only app to be able to
    read/write tags on the new iPhone? At least in the beginning. The NXP reader/writer app is pre-installed on most
    Android devices featuring NFC. So it would make sense that they didn’t
    release access to NFC controller if NXP has exclusivity. NXP want to
    sell more chips, and are big believer of “the internet of things”. It
    would be hard to imagine that they would exclude the chips they are
    selling, unless Apple demanded it, of course.

  2. In 18 – 24 months there will begin to be ultra low cost individually identifiable item level NFC tags on everything installed at source tying into payments, anti-counterfeiting, store centric purchase evidence and opportunity for customers to indicate their interest with bricks-and-mortar merchants just as they do online. This ubiquity of familiarity will be the true enabler of the IoT.

    1. That’s probably what every NFC friendly company is working on. NFC is a cheap way to transform anything into a smart object, apple did get it and are working closely with nfc forum and different companies like square, to influence the standard and progressively add the functionality to the Iphone ecosystem.
      bottom line : Apple pay relies on NFC so they can’t afford bad PR about NFC and won’t let us toy with it.

  3. You may recall that when Apple introduced TouchID in Sept. 2013, its use was specifically limited to authenticating access to the iPhone itself, and for making purchases via iTunes (which includes self-purchases made with the Apple Store app at their retail stores). Only with next week’s release of iOS 8 will developers have programming access to TouchID, a year later.

    Apple is extremely cautious with features related to security and privacy. First, they want to ensure absolute security and privacy. But almost as important, they want to ensure the perfect customer experience. Anything that might detract from that experience is to be avoided, such as theft or misuse of personal or financial information. Their reputation is always on the line.

    Just like TouchID, I would expect NFC programming access to become less restrictive (not unrestricted) over the next year, as Apple gains experience with the technology.

    1. I don’t get this statement. “First, they want to ensure absolute security and privacy. But almost as important, they want to ensure the perfect customer experience.”
      Firstly touch ID is an Apple feature not a standard.
      Secondly the open NFC spec is just that. Open. Nothing to do with secure elements so not sure what Apple is afraid of here.
      Thirdly how can having iPhone users tapping away unsuccessfully at NFC campaigns, headphones and other nfc devices without success be a perfect customer experience?
      In my view Apple have dropped a clanger here or simply don’t get the wider ecosystem, or think they can still control it, or are so singularly consumed by payments that they think no one will care our notice.
      3 years ago maybe they could set the agenda but no longer. They don’t have that clout anymore.

  4. They announced that their own payment system won’t be available until later on in the year and iOS8 has no traces of it, so it’s entirely possible that there will be a .1 release that enables NFC access when they also enable their payment system.

    Though going on apples past history I’d expect the NFC API to come after their own payment system has bedded in for a while.

  5. So the programmable Kamor 203 tags, clearly labeled for iPhone6 and 6 Plus, I bought last week on Amazon are useless with my iPhone6 Plus. disgusted.

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