Androids have long had one powerful advantage over iPhones: the ability to read and use NFC tags. But with Apple’s latest devices, the playing field is a bit more even.
That’s because Apple has opened up NFC to third-party developers and newer iPhones have the ability to scan NFC tags. And, more importantly, the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR sport background NFC tag reading.
Despite that, the full functionality of NFC tag reading hasn’t really been unlocked until now.
NFC, if you’re unfamiliar, is the same technology that powers wireless payments, like Apple Pay.
And at long last, with the release of iOS 12 this fall, Apple opened up NFC capabilities to app developers. This means iPhone owners with newer model devices can tap NFC tags to trigger actions — like app launches. It currently works on iPhone XS, XS Max and XR. (iPhone 7 and newer can only use in-app NFC scanning, not NFC tags.)
Launch Center Pro was quick to take advantage of this new functionality by creating NFC tags of its own, in the form of stickers.
The stickers, which are sold online and in the app, add a physical link to digital tasks, explains Launch Center Pro developer David Barnard.
“I’ve heard it said that if your goal is to run every morning, put your running shoes next to your bed so you see them every morning,” he says. “You can still choose to not go running, but the shoes are a reminder of the commitment you made to yourself. Same with the stickers; they provide that extra visual cue to take action even if you could accomplish the same thing without the sticker,” Barnard adds.
Plus, the stickers are also a faster way to launch your tasks, compared with swiping to view then tapping on the Today View Widget on your device.
During the beta, testers used the stickers for a variety of tasks, like launching directions to their next event from a sticker placed in the car, or one that sent their ETA to their loved one and launched directions home. Other testers put a sticker in the fridge to launch a shopping list to add new items to; or placed stickers around the home to trigger HomeKit shortcuts; or placed a sticker by their bedside to help them set alarms, and more.
Basically, anything you do all the time on your iPhone could be linked to one of the stickers.
The support for stickers is part of a broader 3.0 release, which also adds new features like themes, support for alternate app icons, advanced scheduling of tasks (tasks can now have multiple schedules), support for “Add to Siri” and more.
Notably, the app is now shifting to a free-to-use business model, where a one-time purchase or subscription will unlock all the features.
As mentioned earlier, Apple’s newest iPhones allow users to harness NFC stickers without needing to open the app by way of background detection. iPhone 7 and earlier devices don’t have NFC background reading, meaning users need to open the app to scan NFC tags.
Of course, there are still a few hurdles keeping iPhone NFC reading from competing with the functionality on Android.
That’s because tapping an NFC tag will bring up a Launch Center Pro notification, which users need to tap to open the app and let it do its thing. Using NFC tags on Android is much more seamless.
But the fact that Apple opened up third-party NFC support bodes well for its future. Hopefully, future iPhones will be able to use NFC reading much more seamlessly. On a similar note, it isn’t hard to imagine Apple taking advantage of NFC tags with its own first-party Shortcuts app sometime in the future.
For those who bought the paid app in the past, you can continue to use the features you paid for without a subscription, and only have to purchase access to the new 3.0 features you want to use. These can be bought as a one-time purchase, if you choose.
For new users, the app is $9.99/year or $30 as a one-time purchase to unlock all the features. For any sort of automation fans, it’s a worthy investment in saving yourself time.