Do iPhones have NFC? How do you turn on NFC on an iPhone?

NFC is a popular technology that’s been available for more than just a couple of years. It’s used everywhere, from portable speakers to payment systems, and for all kinds of things, ranging from transferring contacts or files to pairing your smartphone with your car. The possibilities are many, and so are the questions regarding iPhone’s NFC features. If you want to find simple answers to questions like “Is the iPhone NFC enabled? How do I turn on NFC on my iPhone? or Does iPhone 12 have NFC?” read on:

NOTE: If you don’t know what NFC is and why it’s so popular, we suggest you first read this article: What is NFC and what does it do?.

How do you turn on NFC on an iPhone?

We’re going to start bluntly: you can’t turn NFC on or off on an iPhone! Why is that? The answer is simpler than you might expect: the iPhone’s NFC function is enabled or disabled by the apps that require it. Unlike NFC on Android, where it’s pretty straightforward to turn it on or off directly from the operating system, in iOS, there is no main switch for NFC.

iPhones don't have a NFC switch like Samsung Galaxy smartphones do

Which iPhones have NFC?

All the iPhones released in recent years have NFC. In fact, every iPhone since iPhone 6, which came out in 2014, has a built-in NFC chip. If you need details just to be sure, here’s the whole list of iPhones with this this technology:

  • iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE (1st generation)
  • iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone SE (2nd generation)
  • iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max

iPhone SE 2nd Gen has NFC too

TIP: If you’re not sure about your model, read our guide to find out what iPhone you have.

The first generation of iPhones with NFC - the iPhone 6 models - limited this functionality to just payments via Apple Pay. However, iPhone 7 and newer models allow the use of NFC for reading NFC tags as well, using 3rd party apps. Furthermore, starting with iOS 13 and the release of iPhone XS and XR, iPhones can also encode blank NFC tags using third-party NFC apps such as NFC TagWriter by NXP. And, finally, starting with iPhone XS and going all the way to iPhone 12, these smartphones are also able to read NFC tags in the background. In other words, you no longer have to install 3rd party apps and manually read NFC tags: just tap your iPhone to an NFC tag, and it will automatically identify it.

To make it easier for you to check whether your iPhone has NFC and what it can use it for, we made the following table:

iPhone NFC compatibility and features

How to use iPhone’s NFC

You know now whether your iPhone has NFC or not. But how do you use an iPhone's NFC? The best example we can give you is Apple Pay because it’s available on all NFC-enabled iPhones starting with iPhone 6, and also because it works the same on all of them. When you go into a store, restaurant, taxi, or any other place where you can pay with your iPhone, all you have to do is rest your finger on the Touch ID and hold the top of your iPhone near the contactless reader. When you do that, your iPhone automatically turns on NFC and lets Apple Pay use it to make the payment.

A card enrolled in Apple Pay

Here’s a video that shows the whole process: How to pay in stores using Touch ID.

NOTE: By the way, if you were wondering where the iPhone NFC antenna is, it’s located towards the top of your iPhone’s back, in the top bezel. That’s why we told you to “hold the top of your iPhone near the contactless reader” in the previous paragraph. 🙂

Do you use your iPhone’s NFC chip?

Near Field Communication (NFC) is an increasingly popular technology these days. Many different kinds of devices use it for various purposes, ranging from simple Bluetooth associations or showing business cards to making payments in stores and other places. Do you use your iPhone’s NFC features for anything else but payments? We’re curious to find out, so don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments section below.

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