With Apple supporting NFC on iPhone, we take a look at the top 3 NFC scanning apps in the App Store so you can get the most out of this new functionality.
May 17, 2023
Since the release of iPhone 6, Apple has included NFC as standard hardware on every iPhone but has made little mention of the technology itself, instead focusing on Apple Pay, which is how most people are familiar with NFC. In fact, Apple kept NFC functionality locked to Apple Pay for the iPhone 6 and 6s generations. That changed for iPhone 7 and newer with the introduction of iOS 11 in 2017 which opened up NFC tag reading through a supporting app. Since then, Apple has continued to evolve NFC technology.
If you are unsure if your iPhone supports NFC scanning, check out our iPhone NFC Compatibility Guide.
As a technology, NFC can do so much more than payments. NFC is one of the most important technologies used in Connected Products. As of 2022, NFC has become standard on the approximately 3.4 billion smartphones in use, according to a survey from ABI research sponsored by the NFC Forum.
NFC tags and the iPhone’s ability to read them changes the game. Bluetooth and WiFi simply require too much power to enable everyday objects like posters, apparel, keychains, sports equipment, business cards, and more. NFC does not require any internal power, instead the reading device (your iPhone) supplies the power wirelessly. As a result NFC can enable nearly anything with a web experience.
For the first time, iPhone 7 and newer owners can discover what Android has had for years; the ability to tap into an ever growing number of NFC enabled objects. Unlike Android, where NFC tags can be read from the home screen, Apple requires users with iPhones 7 - iPhone X to install an app to read NFC. iPhone XS, XR and newer, however, can read NFC tags natively without an app.
With a number of NFC scanning apps popping up in the App Store, we found the top 3 you need to get the most out of NFC on your iPhone.
Having enabled millions of products with NFC over a 15 year history we know a thing or two about the tech. Building off this experience, we engineered Decode from the ground up to be the most useful NFC app in the App Store.
Decode incorporates industry-leading ease of use, scan speed, and security. Users can launch scans from both within the app and the quick launch menu. Force touching the app icon on the home screen to launch a scan brings you the most similar experience to scanning NFC on Android on iOS.
Unlike other NFC apps, Decode launches scans within your native browser, meaning you have complete control over your history, cookies, and privacy settings. This is important because other apps use such data as payment for a “free” download.
More than just a NFC scanner, Decode is also the only app that provides secure product authentication. With just a tap Decode can verify an NFC tag’s identity and authenticate a product, providing you both a product image and description to ensure it hasn’t been tampered with since leaving the factory.
Get the Decode app here.
NXP is one of the original inventors of NFC technology, and manufactures NFC chips for the iPhone itself. Their app NFC Tag Info takes a more technical approach when it comes to reading NFC tags. Instead of simply directing users to the associated content, NFC Tag Info presents the raw information encoded to the NFC tag being scanned. This can be helpful for diagnosing possible encoding issues or to simply check that a tag is encoded properly.
If you are more technically sophisticated and understand NDEF encoding schemas, NXP Tag Info will be of utmost interest to you.
Get the NXP - NFC TagInfo app here.
Sneaker Con is unique in that they leverage NFC to connect their app experience to physical shoes enabled with their “Legit” tag. Sneaker Con’s app is best known for buying and selling collectable sneakers. An important part of purchasing any collectable is knowing the item is authentic. Sneaker Con achieves this through a unique "Legit" tag which they place on sneakers after experts fully vet a product. Legit tags have an NFC tag embedded in them that allows owners and prospective buyers to tap and check authenticity, creating an easy way to verify a sneaker is in fact legit.
Additionally, with the app, sneakers can be added to a virtual closet using the same tag. Simply scanning a Legit sneaker and confirming it will add it to your closet. All of the item’s information is then automatically pulled in, making it easy to keep track of your kicks.
Get the Sneaker Con app here.
Through our evaluation of existing iOS NFC scanning apps, we found all apps had a baseline ability to scan NFC-enabled items. However, apps that stood out were those that differentiated themselves for a specific audience.
Decode is the best for people seeking a simple, easy and private NFC experience. NXP’s app is geared to those more technical and interested in the back-end NFC encoding. Finally, Sneaker Con tailored the NFC experience to their industry and its followers.
As NFC continues to grow and find more use cases, expect to see more apps that outfit NFC to their specific industry.
For more information on NFC technology see the NFC Guide.