UK pleads with Apple to unlock access to its NFC chips, Apple says "tough luck"

UK pleads with Apple to unlock access to its NFC chips, Apple says
So, Brexit is something that hasn't been in the news cycle for a while — certainly not in tech news. But it's still a thing that's happening — the UK is set to "leave" the European Union in March of next year. With that, as you probably can imagine, there's a ton of legal matters that need to be settled. The status of EU citizens that live and work in the UK is among them.

The British Home Office is developing an app to make it super-easy for the affected people to apply for a "settled" status in the UK. All they'd need to do is answer a few questions, take a selfie of themselves, and scan the NFC chip in their passports. The data is sent directly to the Home Office and is to be processed in two weeks' time for each person.

But, as you can probably guess, to scan a passport, you'd need an NFC chip in your own device.

Here's where the Home Office is met with a bit of a hurdle, one might say. Apple's iPhones do have NFC chips in them — they've had them since the iPhone 6 era. But these are completely locked away from 3rd party access. Apple only uses NFC for its proprietary Apple Pay service and has opened limited access to it for third-party developers who use its Core NFC framework.

As you probably know, iPhones are in the hands of a huge chunk of people. In the UK, it's estimated that about 50% of smartphone owners are on iOS. The Home Office's app does not work with iPhones, though, because it doesn't follow the Core NFC framework — it's just too limited for what it needs to do with the passport data, presumably. The Office continues to negotiate with Apple and the UK's Home Secretary Sajid Javid even made a trip to Apple's headquarters in Cupertino. The hopes were that Apple would expand Core NFC a bit when it launches iOS 12.1, but that didn't happen.

Android users, on the other hand, will mostly have no issues with the process. It is stated that only "very old" Android devices or cheap, entry-level phones (obviously, the ones that have no NFC) won't be able to run the app properly. Also, there are still a few people in the UK that are on Windows or BlackBerry phones — those are out of luck as well.

The good news is that one can do the application process by either borrowing someone else's Android phone, or by physically posting their passport to the UK Visa and Immigration Service. They can still answer the questionnaire digitally, via a computer. Home Office will be setting up computer stations at 56 local libraries for those that don't have a PC at home.

It is also worth noting that the Dutch government has also requested NFC access to Apple's iPhones way back in July. The Netherlands has its own apps to make dealing with bureaucracy easier, but, again, some features do need the use of NFC.

So, as we are getting more modern and more mobile, the use of NFC is popping up once again. Maybe, at some point, Apple will give in? Hey, they just put a USB Type-C port on an iPad, we can dream!



1. Cat97

Posts: 1977; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Conclusion: switch to Android instead of begging Apple for essentially standard stuff.

4. Peaceboy

Posts: 640; Member since: Oct 11, 2018

I don’t want apple to open its nfc to others as it will lessen its security and privacy.

2. Be_Mine unregistered

Well, they are used to standing in the long queue at the launch of every new iPhone. They won't really mind queuing up for this.

5. j2001m

Posts: 3061; Member since: Apr 28, 2014

If I was the U.K., I make a rule of sale that nfc is open or you banned from sale

6. mrochester

Posts: 1036; Member since: Aug 17, 2014

On what grounds would you make that law?

7. Phonehex

Posts: 768; Member since: Feb 16, 2016

Thankfully you aren't .

10. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1346; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

Opening it up would mean more competition for Apple pay. We all know that Apple doesn't like apps that compete with its own even if they've been there for years.

11. caelironstaff

Posts: 16; Member since: Nov 02, 2018

I am confused, how is this a problem for Windows Phone users? I have an Android (Axon 7-rooted and on Pie via Treble) at the moment, but I have a number of Windows devices (Lumia's 928, Icon, 1520, 950, 950 XL (running Windows 10 on ARM), Alcatel Idol 4s, and an HP Elite X3) and all but the Idol 4s have an NFC chip and I used them for a variety of reasons/uses during my use of the devices (the Elite and the 950 xl are my daily drivers yet, the Android is purely for testing purposes). This included payments, NFC ring, a variety of automation via NFC, and an NFC door lock. Only Apple is the dumb company that refuses to acknowledge that their customers can do a variety of things if they had access to NFC.

12. cncrim

Posts: 1590; Member since: Aug 15, 2011

Switch to android, done.

13. Blazers

Posts: 764; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

With your compelling four-word argument, I'm sure die-hard Apple fans will RUN (not walk) to the closest Carphone Warehouse to trade in their iPhone for an Android.

14. Sweetcheese

Posts: 44; Member since: Aug 23, 2018

Expect a ridiculous retaliatory fine soon.

20. audibot

Posts: 678; Member since: Jan 26, 2017

o well everyone get rid of the iphones and get the androids and problem fixed apple losses people win

23. mixedfish

Posts: 1566; Member since: Nov 17, 2013

The concept of technology that works to benefit your life is foreign for Apple.

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