How to Easily Program NFC Tags with Your iPhone | Launch Shortcuts and More Automatically with NFC

NFC Shortcuts App Automation for iPhone Credit: Konstantin Savusia / Shutterstock
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You’ve probably heard of NFC tags before, and even though this technology has been available for quite a while, it’s become much more prevalent in recent years. NFC technology lets you use your iPhone in many different ways, and it’s actually a fantastic new way to trigger various actions and shortcuts without unlocking your iPhone or other smartphones.

The best part is that you can do many things with an NFC tag. Basically, the sky is the limit – and if you can program it, you can use an NFC tag to automate it.

You can use NFC tags to make your home smarter, to help promote your business, or just for fun.

Using NFC tags isn’t complicated or expensive, and you’ll only need your iPhone and a little bit of basic knowledge.

Here’s everything you need to know about the NFC tags!

What’s NFC Technology?

Near field communication, better known as NFC, is a secure connection between two devices that allows communication between them as long as they are near each other. Hence “near” in the name.

Basically, this communication lets both devices move data or information between one another. You’ve likely used NFC technology before by paying with Apple Pay or Google Pay.

Many other devices, like headphones, support NFC technology which allows for use in a bunch of different ways, like easy Bluetooth pairing for example.

Here we are focusing on small NFC tags, which are stickers, or cards, or keychains with a chip inside that lets them communicate with your device. You can program an NFC tag to do many custom actions for you, your family, or anyone else who taps the tag with their smartphone.

Or, you can also use the NFC tag to trigger a custom iPhone shortcut that will only work for you, like setting an alarm clock or turning off the lights. But first, you’ll need to have the right equipment.

What Do You Need to Set Up an NFC Tag?

Setting up NFC tags with your iPhone is pretty straightforward, but you need to have the right tools to do so.

First, you’ll need to get NFC tags. These are pretty easy to come by, but make sure you’re buying them from a trusted place. If you buy locked tags, you won’t be able to program or change them. Fortunately, there are many trusted sites like Amazon where you can get them.

They’re also pretty cheap; you can get up to 50 NFC tags for around $14, so you’ll have more than enough to cover all of your needs.

  • Additionally, you’ll need an iPhone that supports Near Field Communication (NFC). Fortunately, every recent iPhone supports this technology.
  • You’ll need to have an iPhone 7 or newer to use NFC tags. The 2020 iPhone SE also counts.
  • Also, make sure that your iPhone has at least iOS 13 installed. That shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s still worth mentioning.

Finally, if you want to program your tags from your iPhone, you’ll also need an app. There are many NFC apps in the App Store, but we recommend that you start with NFC TagWriter by NXP or NFC Tools.

Both work the same way, so you shouldn’t have a problem with either app.

You’ll also need Apple’s Shortcuts app. It’s installed by default on your iPhone, but you might want to download it again if you deleted it.

After you have all of this stuff ready, it’s time to customize your tags.

How to Trigger an iOS Shortcut with Your NFC Tag

The easiest way to use an NFC tag is with an action from your Shortcuts app. Shortcuts are already pretty fast to use, but this way, you can turn off your lights or even send a custom message just by tapping your iPhone on an NFC tag.

Here’s how to add a shortcut to a specific NFC tag:

Add Shortcuts to NFC Tags iPhone
  1. On your iPhone, open the Shortcuts app.
  2. Tap on the Automation tab at the bottom of your screen.
  3. Tap on Create Personal Automation.
  4. Scroll down and select NFC.
  5. Tap on Scan.
  6. Put your iPhone near the NFC tag.
  7. Enter a name for your tag.
  8. Tap on Add Action.
  9. Select the action you want your iPhone to do when you tap the tag. You can select actions you already created or create new ones. Don’t worry about not adding the shortcut you want; you can always change it later.
  10. Once you selected your action, tap on Next on the top right corner.
  11. If you want your action to run automatically, make sure to toggle Ask Before Running OFF.
  12. Tap Done.

And that’s it. Now you can test your tag by placing your iPhone near the tag. If you want, you can change the action in the Shortcuts app.

Something to keep in mind is that you’ll be the only one whose iPhone will complete the action when near this tag. If you want a different iPhone or another device to do the same action, you’ll need to repeat the same steps on that device.

If you want your tag to be programmed for anyone to use, you’ll need to follow the next steps.

Read More: Have You Tried NFC Yet? 12+ Cool Things You Could Do with It

How to Program NFC Tags Anyone Can Use

If you want your tag to work automatically without making people create a new shortcut, you’ll need to program or write the custom action to your NFC tag. Don’t worry though, it’s easier than it sounds, and you’ll only need to use the apps we previously mentioned.

Program NFC Tags With iPhone

For the purpose of this tutorial, we’ll show you how to use program an NFC tag by using the NFC Tools app, but you can also use NFC TagWriter, and the steps will be similar. Here’s what you need to do.

  1. On your iPhone, open NFC Tools.
  2. Tap Write.
  3. Tap Add a record.
  4. You’ll see a list with a bunch of options available. You can choose to open a URL, send a text or open a file. For this example, choose URL/URI. And don’t worry, you can change it later.
  5. Enter the URL you want to open. You can try, for example,
  6. Tap Ok.
  7. You’ll be back on a previous screen, and you should see your new action. Now tap on Write.
  8. Approach your NFC tag and you’re done!

You can get out of the app and give your NFC tag a test. Now, anyone can use your tag without any extra steps. If you want to change your NFC tag, go back to the app and tap Other.

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