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Apple’s iOS 17 is going back to the future – an unsung hero from Apple is back and badder than ever!

Sometimes the old ones are the best as iOS 17 looks to be reviving a forgotten gem

Apple and NFC in iOS17

A phoenix from the ashes

iOS 17 is coming from Apple this fall and from what we saw at WWDC it looks to be a little less feature-packed than other recent OS updates.

Some of the highlights were Contact Posters & Live Voicemail for the phone app. FaceTime is coming to Apple TV and gets both Audio & Video Messages and the Messages app gets a bit of an overall facelift and Live Stickers.

One of the favourite features announced was the new StandBy fullscreen function that turns your phone into a bedside clock but there were also some features mentioned that although minor could prove to be the ones that are used the most – and they centre around some older technology.

An old hero that harks back to the days of iPhone 6 is finally given its time to shine – near-field communication (NFC) is about to get sexy!

NFC – Making each day easier

Apple’s NFC tech is almost a decade old and was originally only enabled for use with Apple Pay – a feature that has made a huge difference to me and possibly you every day.

Apple ring-fenced their NFC tech though and was wary about letting third-party developers use it. They had to wait three years to get some limited functionality and it was only last year that Apple finally allowed third-party payment apps to use NFC for accepting transactions. How much of that was Apple’s goodwill or the pressure from the good old EU and their anti-trust investigations I’m not so sure, but the good news is at least NFC is now more widely and readily available. I’ll happily take the ‘W” on that score.

But other than for payments – which incidentally means that I’ve not had to take a credit or debit card with me for years NFC has remained pretty unexplored, underused and underutilised. It’s become almost an invisible hero – one that offers great quality-of-life improvements but so far only in one area.

That could be because Apple could only see its initial benefit for payments and transactions but now other opportunities are starting to raise their heads as the keyless society gathers pace.

I recently changed cars and that car offers me the keyless option. It’s not perfect I’ll admit. The functionality is limited to unlocking/locking the car and starting it. The physical key on the other hand gives you remote boot opening, folding wing mirrors, and vanity lights as you approach the car. Overall the actual key wins, but if I know I’m heading out for the day, typically I will go keyless – one less thing to lose or get stolen. At least I have the option thanks to NFC.

Of course, the keyless life reaches beyond the car though with many hotels & offices now choosing NFC entry methods. I did look into changing my front door lock to keyless as well but the cost is too prohibitive – for now at least.

As you’ll gather I am quite the fan of NFC and what it brings to me and it seems as if third-party developers and Apple themselves are ready to start to use it more and more.

Give me more

A couple of years back Apple announced that some states in the U.S. would be enabling you to add your driver’s licence to your Apple Wallet which could then be scanned by authorities via NFC. Admittedly the uptake has been slow, but at least it shows the intent is there.

Then all of a sudden in June at Apple’s WWDC event NFC was thrust back into the limelight with the announcement of four new features that will all rely on NFC – AirDrop, NameDrop, SharePlay and CarPlay’s version of SharePlay.

The technology should be super reliable with nearly a decade of use to draw on. NFC remains an Apple-to-Apple-only feature but as iPhones from as far back as 2018 are supported and able to run iOS 17, that means the majority of iPhone users will be able to use these latest features.

Out of the shadows

AirDrop is something I use most days and the fact it is coming to iOS 17 is great news – making it easier to share files or photos with a friend in a matter of seconds.

NameDrop will mean that old-fashioned business cards will become almost immediately extinct and sharing your contact details with vendors, family or friends will become as simple as bringing your phones close together. That same gesture will double up to start a SharePlay session allowing you to listen to music, watch a movie, or play a game with friends that are close by too.

Near-field communication has been around for ages but only now is starting to gather pace. As I said although subtle, the improvements it is starting to make in day-to-day life are telling. And with NFC now becoming more commonplace what’s to say that Apple’s Ultra Wideband (UWB) won’t one day suddenly step out of the shadows and have its day in the sun? Surely it must be destined for more than just AirTags and FindMy.

Wrapping up

Although iOS 17 is a slightly less headline-grabbing update there are still some meaningful things coming our way later this summer.

It’s odd how after all this time Apple has decided to resurrect NFC but I don’t care – it’s got to be for the good. Like Apple Watch took a while to find its way, possibly the same is also true of this little gem of a hidden feature.

It’s sometimes the little things that make all the difference…

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