I’m really looking forward to iPhone7. The reason? Because I know every inch of circuitry in the 6 & because of that, I know I’ll never be able to use NFC on one. I wanted to explain to you why, as there’s a lot of misinformation on the subject and I’ve done a lot of research into this (including taking many iPhones apart).
As far as I know, there’ll be no jailbreaks, no software updates, and nothing to ‘unlock’ NFC on iPhone as it’s to do with the hardware, not the software.
(image credit: electronicproducts.com)
So to understand why, you need to understand how NFC works. NFC in principle is based on something called Load Modulation. This means that the hardware, (usually a phone), or ‘interrogator’ is what creates a magnetic field which energizes the passive target (usually an NFC tag for example), so the interrogator modulates data over the field whilst the passive target demodulates data back over the same field. Does that make sense? There’s a great article here explaining it a little better than me
The thing to understand is the passive target (the NFC tag) never creates a field of it’s own. It relies on the interrogator. So this means the hardware. If you look at a detailed teardown of an iPhone 6 there’s a tiny NFC loop antenna alongside a well known AS3923 booster IC. This design was intended for custom microSD or SIM cards to enable mobile phones of old to do transactional payments.
This is the type of application where the mobile phone presents a Card Emulated credential to a high power contactless POS terminal for example. The POS terminal acts as the reader, energizing the iPhone6 with help from the AS3923 chip. The diagram below shows how the RX and TX modulation is boosted from a signal presented by a reader device. In other words the iPhone6 is not meant to provide a field, only to react to one. That’s why it’s design is only meant for NFC Card Emulation and perhaps Peer-2-Peer, but definitely not tag Discovery.
(image credit: ams.com)
So, that is why we must wait for the iPhone7 and to be honest, if it doesn’t happen then, NFC is going on pause.
What is interesting is some time ago, a demo floating around the Internet and articles such as being able to open hotel doors with your phone or watch, definitely show Apple has an agenda to use this functionality beyond payments.
Images from: ams.com, stackoverflow.com, ibtimes.com, technical data part credit to Richard Grundy, founder of Flomio