Apple opens up NFC: a consumer experience triumph

| Corey Wilson

Apple expands NFC capability in iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, validating and expanding the multi-billion dollar NFC opportunity. Future-focussed brands that act now will secure a competitive edge.

Apple is well known for its ‘less is more’ philosophy; one of Steve Jobs’ most powerful legacies. This approach proved Apple’s salvation when Jobs returned in the nineties, slashing their product line by 70% so they could focus on fewer, better products.

As Jobs said, “Focus means saying ‘no’ to the hundred other good ideas”.

When less is more, every decision carries more weight – you look closely before you leap: you’ll rarely see Apple jump on an unproven bandwagon. Instead the company waits until a category proves its potential – then enters (and generally surpasses) the fray.

So when Apple does adopt a new technology, you can bet there’s value in the category. That’s been true of portable music, smart phones and tablets. And when they launched Apple Pay, it was true of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.

The thing is, beyond Apple Pay, they didn’t open up the NFC tags in their devices to newer, more innovative services and experiences.

Until now.

Apple embraces the full potential of NFC

At the Worldwide Developers Conference this June, Apple announced support for Core NFC tag reading technology in iOS 11. The update will be available for iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus users from this autumn. Here’s what it means in practice.

With Apple Pay, you can use your smartphone to buy things. This release empowers users to interact with NFC tags in a whole range of new ways.

Brands can embed these physical NFC tags into the products they already sell to create ‘living products’ – products that deliver unique, personalized content experiences, at the tap of a phone.

Juicers can deliver personalised recipes for smoothies. Ski jackets can offer localised slope reports. Dog food can be re-ordered with one tap, just when you run out of it.

We call it the Internet of your things – bringing your existing physical products online so you can offer a more personal, more relevant and more compelling consumer experience.

For the consumer, that’s huge – and Apple knows it.

The tech titan doesn’t follow fads, but when fad becomes the next big thing the company prides itself on meeting users’ needs better than any other technology company – a tenet at the heart of Apple’s model of innovation.

In making this announcement Apple recognises its duty to consumers – and in doing so both validates and expands the NFC market opportunity. If you’re in a brand selling physical products and you’re serious about digitization, now’s the time to strike. For three big reasons:

  • Consumers are starting to expect more: Connected products and innovative apps have raised the bar for consumers. The good news is that living products are already demonstrably popular. When forward-thinking brands have created living products, the results have spoken for themselves – like DYNE, who’ve already seen encouraging annual sales increase thanks to their connected clothing.
  • Smartphones are everywhere: Today, every major provider offers NFC-enabled smartphones. Apple’s record of backing the winning horse makes its adoption especially noteworthy, but an estimated 1.4 billion smartphones are already NFC-enabled. By 2018, with Apple’s inclusion, that jumps to a forecast of 1.9 billion. That’s 1.9 billion people who could tap into your products.
  • Brands need new ways to differentiate: Living products give brands significant competitive advantage. However, if Apple’s entrance onto the scene means what it usually does, it won’t be long until living products are everywhere – and brands without them end up at a competitive disadvantage.

Apple’s announcement proves NFC technology is on the brink of large-scale adoption – so smart brands are making in-roads now. Adoption now puts you in prime position to leverage consumer excitement along the cutting edge.

NFC: The time has come for decisive action

Coming from a brand that’s made premium mass-market into an art form, Apple’s announcement both validates and increases the multi-billion dollar potential of NFC. Future-focussed brands that’ve already adopted this technology have further borne that out, even before Apple joined the party.

Now, with Apple on board, the potential market is bigger than ever. Estimates suggest that 2 in 3 phones will include NFC by next year, empowering billions of users to tap into this technology. Savvy brands will leverage that, using NFC to create more inspiring, exciting and relevant consumer experiences – and define their competitive edge.

Apple proves the waiting game can be wise, so long as you’re poised to jump when the time is right.

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