There has been an NFC radio in the iPhone lineup for quite some time now, but Apple has kept it locked down and kept out of reach of third parties.
That is apparently changing, at least in part, as revealed on Twitter today by Steve Cheney (@stevecheney). As noted on the official Apple developer’s website, iOS 11 supports “Core NFC,” and Apple has officially opened its API for developers in iOS 11. That means iPhones will be able to “detect NFC tags and read messages that contain NDEF data.”
This means a whole new world is opening up to iPhone (and iPad) owners in the future, when iOS 11 rolls out to the public later this year. Here’s how Apple describes its use cases:
“Your app can read tags to give users more information about their physical environment and the real-world objects in it. For example, your app might give users information about products they find in a store or exhibits they visit in a museum.
Using Core NFC, you can read Near Field Communication (NFC) tags of types 1 through 5 that contain data in the NFC Data Exchange Format (NDEF). To read a tag, your app creates an NFC NDEF reader session and provides a delegate. A running reader session polls for NFC tags and calls the delegate when it finds tags that contain NDEF messages, passing the messages to the delegate. The delegate can read the messages and handle conditions that can cause a session to become invalid.”
There is a catch, though. While NFC is technically supported in prior handsets, Core NFC is only officially supported in the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, as far as the beta release of iOS 11 is concerned. It is likely that list of supported devices will increase later this year with the expected arrivals of the iPhone 7s, iPhone 7s Plus, and the iPhone 8.
That’s one oft-requested feature for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, so it will be interesting to see what developers do with the new access later this year.