iPhone and NFC

Will We See NFC on the iPhone?

Moving Beyond ApplePay 

It was about a year ago when Apple announced the iPhone 6. In many ways, it broke a lot of traditions with regards to how Apple treated it’s flagship product.

While the iPhone 5 offered a larger screen than the 4 and 4s (a fifth row of icons could finally be supported!), the 6 went above and beyond, each bigger than what Apple previously stated was the ideal size for a mobile phone.

The camera was further improved, and is now arguably the best camera available until you get to an actual camera. But comes at a cost – instead of sitting flush with the body, users now have a little blister on the back of their device to accommodate the lens.

Under the covers, outside of the usual generational hardware updates, it introduced NFC and a mobile wallet/payment platform.

The same NFC that, for Android, enables bluetooth pairing, contact card sharing, wifi network connections, and so forth would finally be introduced to the Apple ecosystem, along with a payment platform.

Well, kind of.

Prior to the actual launch of the device, Apple confirmed NFC functionality was locked to only support Apple Pay and that the API and SDK for NFC would not be shared with the developer community.

While a bit of a setback, there is precedent to expect changes and availability to those features. After all, Apple did the same with TouchID so that app developers could implement touch based authentication within their third party apps.

iPhone 6s and iOS 9: NFC Functionality 

Today, the iPhone 6s is set to launch soon, alongside an update to iOS. The iOS 9 SDK has been in developer hands for quite some time now, but there has been virtually no mention of whether or not NFC capability has been expanded. Given the scope of change in functionality, you’d think that would be something developers would have mentioned as something to test, but a quick search on Google doesn’t yield anything along those lines. Unless something changes in the next couple of weeks, it’s most likely looking like Apple’s newest phone and operating system will still not support NFC in the same way as Android.

In other disappointing news on the the NFC front, the OnePlus Two shipped without any NFC functionality. Despite Google’s announcement of their push into the contactless payment arena with Android Pay (yes, there was Google Wallet, but it looks like Google has gotten the user experience right with Android Pay), OnePlus elected to remove NFC functionality as their own metrics suggested that NFC was not a commonly used feature… and yet, they stuck a usb-C connector on the device and a fingerprint sensor.

Does this mean NFC is now out of date, and we’ll be subject to the same articles claiming the death of QR Codes, but with a tweak? Something like, “NFC QR Code is dead”?

A New Lease on Life

I’d argue the opposite, and it’s not exactly a “hot taek” (sic). Android Pay is about to go live, and it looks like they will have a lot of support at launch. As a result, studies are predicting the CAGR of the NFC market at around 44% between 2013 and 2019 (link).

What does that mean? Outside of being the gateway for Apple Pay (or Google Pay), NFC opens the device to a number of use cases.

For example, it’s a perfect way to help direct customers to your app at scale.

The push technologies (Beacons, Geofences, Wi-Fi Networks) are entirely dependent upon having an app installed on the user’s device for any push notification-based engagement. No app, no notifications.

Sure, you can tell the customer to go to the app store on their device, search for your app, install, etc, but you’re worried that this friction-filled experience will either cause your customer to (a) give up and not install your app, or (b) install the wrong app. (Have you tried to search for coupon apps lately? There’s a lot of them, and there’s a lot with similar names).

Instead of telling the customer what app to install, they can simply tap a NFC tag (or scan a QR image) and be taken directly to the app. They see the option to install, or if they have the app already, to open the app. This is probably just 2 clicks for the customer and you’ve essentially hand-held them through the experience of getting your app installed.

There’s a layer of security and authentication with NFC, in that it requires a physical presence – one needs to  physically engage (tap) the tag to make it work.  You can’t make it work by merely being in range of a signal, or in a location, or even snapping a picture of a code. Any program or campaign that requires a user to prove their presence, or requires close proximity are tailor-made for NFC. Want to make sure only attendees to an event get a special VIP pass? Want to make sure that only one voucher is distributed per person? Want to make sure that the item you’re about to purchase off of Craigslist is the real deal? NFC can help with all of these cases.

NFC (or QR, for that matter) is not obsolete yet. There are a lot of other use cases and is still a very effective and functional tool to help get the customer engaged with your campaigns. Now we just need to wait for certain device manufacturers to catch up.

Smartwhere Proximity Platform

We understand that messaging is difficult. And our full-stack proximity platform allows you to create and send those messages to your mobile users however you see fit, whether the triggers are beacon events, geofences, wi-fi, or even NFC and QR. We also allow you to send those messages based on user profiles and market segments gathered from location-based data. If you’re interested in learning how proximity data can integrate with your existing marketing platform, click below to see the ways in which we can help you better engage with your customers.


About Smartwhere

Smartwhere is a powerful proximity platform that allows you to quickly and easily integrate proximity solutions into your existing environment. Whether it’s mobile retail, interactive marketing, or location-based advertising, Smartwhere is an all-in-one proximity platform that delivers and manages relevant content to consumers and other end users when and where they need it.

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