The iPhone XS and XS Max, which are being sent this week, and the upcoming iPhone XR support certain NFC card transactions, even when iOS is not running and the host device is powered on because it needs to be recharged.
Buried in the technical specifications of Apple for the new iPhone XS and XR lines, which arrived on 21 September and 26 October respectively, is a first for the devices: Express Card with power reserve. This feature allows new iPhones to perform supported NFC transactions without the help of iOS.
The specifications for the iPhone XS list "Express Cards with power reserve" under all models. Apple's recently published update of the iOS security guide provides more details.
"If iOS does not work because the iPhone needs to be charged, there may still be enough power in the battery to support Express Card transactions. Supported iPhone devices automatically support this feature with a transit card designated as an Express Transit card [and] student ID cards with Express mode enabled. "
In addition, the security guide states that in iOS 12 on the side button a text is displayed containing both the empty battery icon and text indicating that Express cards can be used.
"The NFC controller performs expresscard transactions under the same conditions as when running iOS, except that transactions are indicated with only a haptic notification," the paper continues.
In particular, users only have access to power reserve functions with low power, which means that the function is not available after a standard hardware shutdown.
Apple, which originally listed the "Express Cards with power reserve" as available in a few countries, has now added that language to its spec pages worldwide. It is now known, according to a report by From a distancethat Apple Pay Express Transit Cards will work with power reserves in Japan and China, although it is unclear whether they will work elsewhere. Apple added worldwide FeliCa support to Apple Pay with the iPhone 8, iPhone X and the Apple Series 3 a year ago.
The new possibility is certainly a blessing for holders of transit cards and student IDs issued by participating educational institutions. Express Cards with power reserve brings an important physical NFC card function – no power supply – to the iPhone, meaning that users no longer have to worry about switching on their device to catch a ride, enter student accommodation or other NFC-based transactions.