How to Read RFID with iPhone?

Ever wondered if you could use your iPhone to read RFID tags? Well, the answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Let’s dive into the intricacies of RFID and how you can harness the power of your iPhone to read them.

How to Read RFID with iPhone?

Understanding RFID and NFC

RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, is a technology that uses wireless signals to communicate with locks and readers. These signals can be of different frequencies: Low Frequency (LF), High Frequency (HF), and Ultra High Frequency (UHF). On the other hand, smartphones, including iPhones, use a protocol known as NFC (Near Field Communication).

Compatibility Matters

The reason you need an app to add badges or prox cards to your Apple Wallet is due to the wireless signals an iPhone can send and receive. This boils down to both hardware and software compatibility. While RFID and NFC might sound similar, they have distinct differences:

  • Frequency Differences: NFC in smartphones can only communicate with High Frequency (HF) RFID signals, specifically in the 13.56 MHz band. This means iPhones can’t read LF or UHF RFID signals.
  • Non-standard HF RFID Tags: Some HF RFID tags, like the Mifare classic, aren’t compatible with NFC.
  • Older iPhone Models: Not all iPhones are created equal. Older models lack the hardware and software to support NFC, making RFID reading impossible.

So, if you’re aiming to add an RFID card to your Apple Wallet, ensure you have:

  1. High-frequency RFID prox cards and readers (avoid LF or UHF).
  2. Standard RFID tag readers.
  3. An NFC-compatible iPhone.

Reading and Writing RFID-NFC Tags on iOS

One way to read and write RFID/NFC tags on iOS is by using the Scanfob Ultra-BB2e or the Scanfob NFC-BB2e through Serialio’s Serial Device Manager (SDM). Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Using the Scanfob BB2e with iOS

  1. Open the Cloud-in-Hand Mobile Grid or iScanBrowser. For this guide, we’ll use the Mobile Grid app for iOS.
  2. Click on the Serial Device Manager icon.
  3. Make your Scanfob BB2e discoverable by pressing the button for 1-2 seconds.
  4. Once you see your Scanfob BB2e listed under “Bluetooth LE Devices,” tap on it to pair.
  5. After pairing, Mobile Grid will close the SDM window. Reopen it by tapping on the SMD icon.
  6. Your Scanfob BB2 should now be listed under “Connected Devices.” Click on the gear icon on the far right.
  7. Select “Open TAG Write Dialog” to begin writing to your RFID tags.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can my iPhone read all types of RFID tags?

No, iPhones can only communicate with High Frequency (HF) RFID signals, specifically in the 13.56 MHz band. This means they can’t read Low Frequency (LF) or Ultra High Frequency (UHF) RFID signals. Additionally, some non-standard HF RFID tags, like the Mifare classic, aren’t compatible with the iPhone’s NFC capabilities.

2. Do all iPhone models support NFC and RFID reading?

Not all iPhone models support NFC. Older iPhone models lack the necessary hardware and software to support NFC, which is essential for reading RFID tags. Always check your iPhone’s specifications to ensure it supports NFC before attempting to read RFID tags.

3. Why do I need an app to read RFID tags on my iPhone?

While iPhones have NFC capabilities, they require an app to act as a translator to accurately receive and send HF RFID signals. The app bridges the gap between the RFID technology and the iPhone’s NFC capabilities, ensuring accurate communication and data transfer.


While iPhones have limitations in reading all types of RFID signals, with the right tools and understanding, you can effectively use them to read and write to compatible RFID tags. Always ensure your devices and tags are compatible to ensure a seamless experience.


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