Apple has a rather uncomfortable history with NFC, first shunning and then adopting the tap-and-go technology. However, the latest developments at WWDC hint that those turbulent times have passed.
The company has already revealed new NFC functions for the Apple Watch featured in watchOS 4. Documents for the new iOS 11 release show that the iPhone NFC chip could handle a lot more than just Passbook check-ins and Apple Pay transactions in the future.
Despite the fact that this feature was not mentioned during the keynote address at WWDC on Monday June 5th, iOS 11 Beta introduces support for Core NFC to both iPhone 7 models and, most likely, to future hardware also.
Core NFC is portrayed in release documents as “a new framework for reading Near Field Communications (NFC) tags and data in NFC Data Exchange Format.” Presently the iPhone NFC chip cannot be used for anything but Apple’s own payment system . The revamped framework, however, seems to enable the chip in new iPhones to scan any tags — not simply Apple Pay tags — and act on this data based on where the phone is located.
NFC offers the possibility of additional ways for iOS apps to interface with connected widgets. iPhones could replace transit passes or keycards based on NFC, including the Bay Area’s Clipper card and transit passes such as the London Underground Oyster card.
Theoretically, Core NFC might also support features such as tap-to-pair Bluetooth speakers — a luxury Android users have had access to for some time. It is also possible, however, that Apple could decide to avoid features like this on iPhone to restrict the pairing experience to AirPods and similar gadgets fitted with its patented W1 chip.
The other side of the coin is that NFC may introduce possible privacy issues to iOS. Similar to Bluetooth Beacons, Near Field Communications tags also allow smooth location-based communications, which ensure an enhanced user experience, at the cost of surrendering a certain amount of privacy.