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Can iPhone Replace RFID Card?

iphone and RFID

Today, technological advancements have made access control and financial transactions more seamless and quicker than ever. RFID is an emerging technology that has rapidly grown in popularity massing many benefits to its users. For the card to work, you must be quite close to the reader to transfer information, therefore, proximity is the most prominent safety feature for RFID products. However, smartphones and iPhones can be used as NFC cards but they cannot replace RFID cards. Here are 6 main reasons.


1. Cost


Incorporating NFC technology may be too expensive as it involves a suite of related devices. The cost to own a smartphone with the necessary NFC-enabled biometrics is quite high. However, RFID cards work along with RFID readers only. LF RFID card readers are less expensive than those that support NFC-enabled phones.


2. Safety


RFID cards are secure because different RFID readers cannot read the data from the same RFID card. Also, due to inbuilt protections, RFID cards theft is low, therefore, they are considered safe. NFC transactions are not completely free of risk as mobile hackers have developed ingenious ways of gaining unauthorized access to personal financial data stored on phones.


3. Access control


To use an NFC-enabled phone for access control, it’s not enough to have your iPhone with you as your iPhone must be switched on, have sufficient battery, and have NFC functionality enabled. Also, you may be required to wake up the iPhone’s screen so that it’s active to present it to the reader and toggle the phone to confirm you need access. On the contrary, RFID cards used for access control carry personal data relating to the cardholder and they work alongside access control systems and readers to provide secure entry to a building. The cardholder only needs to wave the card on the reader and is granted access.


4. Master card functionality


NFC-enabled iPhones only work in shorter distances of about 10-20 cm, therefore they cannot operate work with many functions as they also offer very low data transfer rates. On the flip side, a single RFID key card can be programmed to work with many locks, each having its access policies.


5. Payment


NFC-enabled iPhones that incorporate debit, credit card accounts, and loyalty cards into the information transmitted by the iPhone’s NFC tag can only be used to make NFC payments. RFID cards transmit payment details via radio frequency, therefore, with a wave or tap, you can purchase without waiting for the chip reader or entering a PIN. The cards can be used for tap-and-go credit card payments.


6. Distance and read range


RFID cards have a long-range distance reading, therefore, through the tag inside the card, they can be used for vehicle identification. On the other hand, NFC-enabled iPhones have a much smaller read range which is why they only work in shorter distances.




RFID cards can be more widely applied than NFC-enabled phones. When the data stored on the card is transferred, it is encrypted to a high-level AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) for cybersecurity and data protection reasons. Some mobile credentials are plain numbers stored on an app and transmitted via NFC. There’s a much greater risk when these numbers are intercepted and used for criminal activity.


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