September 12 was the date when Apple unveiled its 2018 iPhone lineup including the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR in Cupertino, California. Being part of an ‘S’ upgrade cycle, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max borrow the design language from last year’s iPhone X and get slightly bumped up internals, cameras, and a new Gold colour option. The iPhone XR has been replaced as a low-cost LCD alternative to the duo. However, all three variants add a small upgrade in the form of background reading of NFC tags, using which the new iPhones can detect NFC tags faster than before.
This update has been posted on Apple’s developer portal, as first spotted by Spotify employee Patrick Balestra on Twitter. Previously, iPhone models with NFC have required an NFC-compatible app to remain open in order for the handset to detect when it has come into contact with an NFC tag. However, with the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR, only the display needs to be illuminated (locked or unlocked) to trigger a notification on your phone prompting you to perform the action from the tag. “Background reading will work with any NDEF formatted tag,” according to the Apple developer portal.
Be default, all links accessed using an NFC tag will open in the Safari browser. Apart from URLs, email-related tags will redirect you to the Mail app, all call-related ones will take you to the native Phone app, and so on. The background reading feature will not work when the handset has never been unlocked since boot-up, core NFC reader session is active, Apple Pay Wallet is in use, video camera is in use, or airplane mode is enabled, on any of the new iPhone variants. Third-party developers are expected to take advantage of this addition and possibly add creative solutions to their apps and website experience on the iPhone.