Although very exciting, the news today that the iPhone 6 will have NFC in the form of Apple Pay will not be the watershed moment for NFC that people hope. So far, Apple has not confirmed the inclusion of an all purpose NFC SDK that will let developers access more NFC features than those supported by the Apple Pay API. Since I’ve predicted that there will not be full access to all NFC modes, I will assume that no SDK for NFC will surface in the next ten days or so. I hope I’m wrong.
Let’s start with the good news, that iPhone and NFC can be mentioned in the same sentence. Those of us in the NFC business have been frustrated when potential customers bring up the lack of iPhone support and discouraged when it delays pilot projects. For some, such as out of home marketing specialist BlueBite, a technology agnostic approach was the remedy, and by including QR codes for iPhone users, concerns about NFC support were allayed. There’s more good news on the education front, with iPhone now using the same tap and pay ergonomics just the idea that one’s phone can interact with things by tapping will become salient in the minds of mobile users. So far, most people don’t really know what NFC is, what it can do or if their phone even has it. With Apple Pay now a reality, fewer users will require education about NFC and how to use it.
At TapTrack we’re more of a technology company, with none of the founding team members coming from an advertising or brand management background. As techies at heart, we see the potential of contactless technology in a wide array of applications beyond outdoor marketing where NFC is being used as a smoother QR code. So the bad news for those that hoped to see the iPhone support smart posters and launch instant content is that you’re stuck with QR codes for now.
The real test will be in the coming month as the iOS developer community dives into the new features. In the coming weeks droves of cool apps will be released that leverage the enhanced features and new sensors such as the new M8 motion coprocessor. Whether iOS developers moan about the limited access to the NFC controller will determine the future of NFC as a consumer facing technology beyond just payments. Should the developer community not express interest in creating iPhone apps around NFC, we may never see a more feature rich NFC experience on the iPhone. There are many companies desperately awaiting and betting on true NFC ubiquity, and without any SDK built around the iPhone’s NFC controller today’s announcement is not the end of the ubiquity struggle.