Apple NFC Feature

The new iPhone 10 (X) and 11 models now supports background reading of NFC tags. This means that you no longer need an app to read one. The new models are now as intuitive as Android phones that have the NFC feature. This new ability is currently only limited to these iPhone models.

Older iPhone models still need an app to read NFC tags. These are models 7 and 8. It is no different when compared to a scanning QR code. Scanning a QR code also needs an app or a camera to scan.

It is recommended to have the latest iOS software update. The latest software version update at this time is iOS13+.

Things To Keep In Mind

There are a few things to keep in mind when reading NFC tags. To avoid unintentional reading, Apple will only read tags when the phone is in use. Below are also phone activities that prohibits background reading.

  • The device has never been unlocked
  • A Core NFC reader is in progress
  • Apple Pay Wallet is in use
  • The camera is in use
  • Airplane mode is enabled

Apple background reading supports only a limited URL schemes at this time.

  • Website URL (http/https) – httpss://
  • Email –
  • SMS – sms:+6198761234
  • Telephone – tel:+6198761234
  • Facetime – facetime://
  • Facetime Audio – facetime-audio://
  • Maps –,Cuperino,California
  • HomeKit Accesory Setup – X-HM://12345

(Source: Apple Developer Documentation) See the full documentation here.

If there are multiple records in the tag, Apple will use the first one. The record must also contain a universal link or is a supported scheme as shown above. What this means for businesses thinking about using NFC is that it can service both Apple and Android users. The downside is providing only one type of information.

So how are you able to take advantage of this? Put the most important record first and all others behind. This means you can provide more records for Android users while keeping Apple users engaged.

The increasing support of NFC by Apple is welcoming. Maybe future iOS updates will make it easier when an iPhone interacts with an NFC tag.

NFC Driven By An App

Interacting with an NFC tag using an app is different to common background reading. Why is this? An app offers more possibilities because the app can be programmed to read or execute specific tasks such as reading the unique ID of a tag. It is not just limited to Apple’s scheme.

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