For years we’ve been waiting for Apple’s support of NFC. Near Field Communication is a really short-range radio technology, developed in Austria at NXP in Gratkorn. It is capable of only transmitting a short string of text (or numbers) like a URL from the tag to the phone but everyone who ever used it got a “wow” experience. Touch and go!
Well, the adoption of NFC was rather … let’s say modest. Aside from payment with NFC enabled bank cards (widely spread in Austria) there was almost no other service available to try. And since most people (all Android users) do not even know they have it built in, there was no great need to roll it out widely.
Enter: xamoom. We started our pre-business-project (pingeb.org) around the idea that NFC tags are super-cool and useful but no one could do anything with them. With xamoom, we incorporated NFC right from the beginning into our core product. NFC is now one of many location identifiers for us, we carefully track its usage and our xamoom service app writes NFC tags based on the right location or object.
Apple finally supports it!
Now, finally, with iOS 11 Apple introduces a set of APIs. They enable developers to integrate NFC into their apps. xamoom, as CTO Bruno Hautzenberger states, will be ready on day one. We already have a working app for it. See it in this short video:
Here’s what we know (and don’t know):
Apple announced “CoreNFC” at their annual developer’s conference WWDC in May 2017. Since then: silence. Here are some questions and answers around this technology and Apple’s adoption:
Which iPhones will support NFC?
ANSWER: NFC was built in the iPhone 6S and 7/7Plus to enable the mobile payment service ApplePay. While the 6S had a somehow crippled NFC antenna, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus has the right hardware built in and could easily do all the tricks that Android phones do for years.
It is expected that the new cheaper iPhones will feature NFC as well as the upcoming flagship phones. We estimate that at the availability of iOS 11 around 220 million devices worldwide are ready for NFC.
By the way: The latest Apple Watch has NFC also built in.
Do I need an app?
ANSWER: The beauty of Android’s implementation is, that the OS itself supports NFC and in case a URL has been triggered, it forwards it to the default browser. This makes the mobile web really easy to use.
Well, Apple is different. It offers the CoreNFC APIs only to app developers. The OS itself does not (at least up until the current beta version) support NFC.
So for now, there has to be an app for using NFC tags.
But browsers are apps too.
ANSWER: Yes. And we expect browser vendors to support CoreNFC. We do even hope that Apple’s Safari will feature NFC support sooner or later. If not, Apple would miss out on a great opportunity to make the mobile web even more useful and keep up with Google’s enormous lead in web technology.
What will be possible with NFC?
ANSWER: We’ve seen great uses of NFC when it comes to the mobile web. But this is just a fraction of the many possibilities. Think of the millions of devices that easily pair with the phone using NFC. Or the manifold applications in logistics where only Android plays a role.
When will all that be available?
ANSWER: There are rumors that there will be an Apple event on September 6th. Typically for Apple, iOS 11 will ship on that day to developers. General availability will be a few days to a week later.
Will xamoom’s apps be ready for that date?
ANSWER: Yes. As you see on the video, it is already working on iPhones. We cannot yet upload this app to the app store due to some restrictions. But a few days before the general availability this will be allowed and on day one you can experience NFC on your iPhone using the wonderful xamoom location CMS.
Tell us, what you think?
Will Apple make NFC cool and popular? Will it be available in the OS rather than just in apps? What took Apple so long? What’s your opinion on these questions?