Release of iOS 13 - What's new

With the upgrade to iOS 13, all iPhone 7 and newer can read and write an NFC Tags.

The NFC behavior of iPhones updated to iOS 13 is very similar to that of Android smartphones:

  • for NFC Tag programming, an application is required (as for Android);
  • it is possible to read the UID of the NFC chip;
  • iPhone XS and later support background tag reading, without a specific application being open; previous models require a specific application to be opened.

The iPhone is compatible with all NFC Forum chips, from type 1 to 5, including:

  • NTAG®
  • ICODE®
  • FeliCa™
  • MIFARE® (Desfire, Plus, Ultralight)

The big news this year in the NFC scene is related to the update of Apple's operating system. With the release of iOS 13, iPhones finally have full access to NFC Tag features.

With this new feature, iPhones apps can write NDEF information such as URLs and text. iPhones also enjoy native tag access to take advantage of features available on different NFC chips. This opening represents a breakthrough for all NFC applications, which will now be able to enjoy a wider audience and a global reach.

The ability to access the UID of the chip makes several applications possible that were previously relegated "only" to Android smartphones, including authentication, traceability, access control, logistics, ticketing, etc.

For all the details, especially for those who intend to develop iOS applications that take advantage of NFC technology, refer to the page dedicated to Core NFC, the SDK libraries package within iOS 13, which allow reading, programming and interaction with NFC Tags.


And what about iPhones not updated to iOS 13?

iPhone Xs

iPhone Xs Max

iPhone XR

  • Their NFC sensor can read NFC tags, and manage mobile payments
  • No specific app is required
  • They can read NFC tags in the background
  • Tags must contain an NDEF message

CAN read NFC Tags

iPhone X

  • Their NFC Sensor can read NFC Tags, and manage mobile payments
  • However, a dedicated app is required to read Tags
  • Tags must contain an NDEF message

iPhone 8

iPhone 8 Plus

iPhone 7

iPhone 7 Plus

  • NFC Sensor can read NFC Tags, and manage mobile payments
  • Update to iOS 11 required
  • dedicated app is required to read Tags
  • Tags must contain an NDEF message

iPhone 6

iPhone SE

  • NFC Sensor can be used for payments only

CAN NOT read NFC Tags, without an external reader

iPhone 5 and earlier

  • No NFC Sensor


NFC and iPhone tags: differences with other operating systems

Apple devices behave a bit differently from Android for what concerns NFC technology.

iPhone X - NFC

  • An installed and open app is required
    (not required for iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and XR)

    An Android smartphone can detect an NFC tag without any particular application installed, as long as the phone is not in standby mode. As for the iPhone, iOS does not have any native support for reading NFC tags and performing actions on the local device. An app must be installed to implement these actions. Additionally, the app must also be open, otherwise Tags will not be detected. One of the apps available for reading Tags with an iPhone is NFC TagInfo by NXP.
  • NDEF messages only
    Another peculiarity of iOS is that it allows you to read only tags that contain an  NDEF message (NFC Data Exchange Format), so to speak, the standard commands defined by the NFC Forum: URL, V-Card, plain text, SMS, email, call. In iOS, unlike Android, there is no "launch application" command (a Tag programmed to open a specific app).
  • iPhones can't read Tag's UID
    With iOS you can not read the Tag's UID. As a result, all those applications that are based on UID reading, such as anti-counterfeiting or access control apps, are not possible with an iPhone, at least for now.
  • Read, but not write
    Finally, it's good to point out that iPhones can read NFC Tags, but can't program them. For programming, you must use an Android smartphone, or a PC with an NFC Encoder. Alternatively, Shop NFC allows you to purchase NFC Tags already encoded.