Use Apple AirTag for NFC actions on the iPhone: Here's how!

On the Apple iPhone, you can use the shortcuts app to set a wide variety of actions that are carried out automatically using individual triggers. One of these triggers can be contact with an NFC tag. Since the Apple AirTags have such NFC chips, the small trackers can also be used to activate shortcuts on the iPhone. In this guide, I will focus primarily on setting up an AirTag as an NFC trigger. Creating a shortcut and then linking it to it is only touched upon for the sake of completeness. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment.

If you use shortcuts on the iPhone, you can trigger them with an AirTag or other NFC tags. Here you can find out how it works and what alternatives there are.
If you use shortcuts on the iPhone, you can trigger them with an AirTag or other NFC tags. Here you can find out how it works and what alternatives there are.

Use AirTag as an NFC trigger for iPhone shortcuts

To set up an Apple AirTag on your iPhone as an NFC trigger for shortcuts, you need to have the AirTag handy. You can then make the necessary settings, which I will show you step by step in the following list. It all works like this:

  1. Opens the Shortcuts app on your Apple iPhone
  2. Select the middle tab below automations from
  3. If no automation is set yet, tap Create Custom Automation
  4. If you already have automations, tap that in the top right Plus symbol (+) and then click "Create personal automation"
  5. Scroll down until you see the point NFC find and tap on it
  6. Tap in the NFC menu Scanto set your AirTag for an action
  7. Then hold the AirTag close to the iPhone until "Name this tag" appears
  8. Specifies a name for the NFC tag so that it can be clearly assigned
  9. Then tap on the top right Continueto associate an action (this may take a while when setting up new shortcuts)
  10. Tap above Continue, in the next step deactivates "Confirm before executing" (otherwise the action will not be retrieved automatically) and taps in the upper right corner Readyto complete the setup
First you open the shortcuts app on your Apple iPhone and create a new automation there. Then select NFC as the trigger and scan your AirTag or another NFC tag to mark it as a trigger.
First you open the shortcuts app on your Apple iPhone and create a new automation there. Then select NFC as the trigger and scan your AirTag or another NFC tag to mark it as a trigger.
Hold the AirTag or NFC tag to your iPhone until it is recognized. Then set a name and look for the action to be performed. You can read below why I chose Bluetooth.
Hold the AirTag or NFC tag to your iPhone until it is recognized. Then set a name and look for the action to be performed. You can read below why I chose Bluetooth.
If you want the shortcut with NFC trigger to run completely automatically, then you have to deactivate "Confirm before executing". But my tip is to activate "Notify when running" afterwards. This is how you can see when the triggering of the action worked.
If you want the shortcut with NFC trigger to run completely automatically, then you have to deactivate "Confirm before executing". But my tip is to activate "Notify when running" afterwards. This is how you can see when the triggering of the action worked.

My example: Activate Bluetooth on AirTag contact

You can set various actions for the AirTag or NFC contact with the iPhone: navigate a specific route, open or close the garage door, open or close doors, play music, Apps or call up information, and so on. Since my AirTag is on my keychain, I'll just set it as an example for these instructions that when I make contact with my iPhone, Bluetooth should be activated or deactivated on the same. The reason: When I leave the house, I want to be able to connect Bluetooth headphones directly. And when I get home, I want Bluetooth turned off.

So I open the Shortcuts app, select the Automations tab, and tap the Add plus icon in the top right. Then I tap on "Create personal automation" and select the "NFC" menu item. I scan the AirTag and name it "Keychain". Now I tap on "Next" and then on "Add action". In the selection of umpteen possible actions, I look for Bluetooth and select "Configure Bluetooth". Here you can now select "On" for switching on. For the application described above - for both leaving the house and returning - I use "on/off". I complete the setup as above; and done.

Switching Bluetooth on and off on the iPhone using the AirTag's NFC function worked. You can use notifications to confirm the execution of shortcuts.
Switching Bluetooth on and off on the iPhone using the AirTag's NFC function worked. You can use notifications to confirm the execution of shortcuts.

Now, every time I leave the house and want to pair headphones, I can turn on Bluetooth on the iPhone (without having to tap around on the display). And when I get home, I can turn off contactless Bluetooth. I have also set - as you can see in the screenshots above - that a notification will be displayed when the AirTag is detected and the shortcut is executed. This way I can see directly whether everything is working and don't have to keep merging the iPhone and AirTag over and over again hoping that Bluetooth is now activated or deactivated. This also saves looking in the iOS control center, which would destroy the hoped-for time savings.

Will my Find My AirTag stay active if I use it as an NFC tag?

An important question that needs to be clarified in the whole thing: remains the AirTag for the location of the item associated with it active if I also use it as an NFC tag? And the answer is yes. Before trying the NFC setup above, I had set my AirTag to track my keychain. However, after setting it up using the steps above, I was still able to use the AirTag in the Where is? App call him  locate, play a sound and so on. So setting it up as an NFC tag doesn't override use as a tracker device. 

Identify found AirTag: Shortcut does not override NFC capability

Another thing I tested is the identification of the AirTag. Because if someone else finds the AirTag, that person must of course be able to identify the tracker. If you e.g. For example, if you have left a message for finders so that they can bring the AirTag (and the associated item) back to you or at least contact you, then this function should not be disturbed or even overwritten by a shortcut. When merging AirTag and iPhone, however, it turns out that this does not happen. After the notification for the shortcut, a link to the found.apple.com website will appear, where found AirTags can be identified.

Triggering a shortcut and identifying an AirTag works in parallel via NFC. If you tap on the notification shown, the information about the AirTag and the option to deactivate it will continue to be displayed.
Triggering a shortcut and identifying an AirTag works in parallel via NFC. If you tap on the notification shown, the information about the AirTag and the option to deactivate it will continue to be displayed.

Do I need an AirTag for NFC-triggered shortcuts?

No. If you can do without the location function and are only looking for NFC triggers for shortcuts, then there are much cheaper solutions. You don't have to rely on expensive AirTags if you want to use NFC functions. The other advantage of pure NFC tags or NFC stickers over AirTags is that they work passively and therefore do not need a battery. You can already get NFC tags for triggering certain actions on or with the iPhone 9,99 euros for 30 pieceOr 8,95 euros for 10 piece – depending on the manufacturer, size and configuration options.

Pack of 30 NFC Cards 215 Tag Ntag215 ios Rewritable NFC Card Compatible with iphone TagMo and...
  • 【What you get: 】 The package contains 30 white NFC cards, NTAG215 chip with 504 bytes of usable memory, with ...
  • 【Reliable material】 Rewritable NFC cards are made of durable waterproof PVC material ...
  • 【Right size】 The size of round NFC cards is 25 mm in diameter, small and portable, laminated white ...
mmtrade | 10x NFC tag stickers 888 bytes | Sticker Tags compatible with Apple iPhone iOS Shortcuts...
  • ✔️ Scope of delivery: 10x self-adhesive NFC tags (25mm, white, 888 bytes). The stickers have enough...
  • ✔️ Compatibility: The NFC tags are compatible with all common NFC readers/writers.
  • ✔️ Compatible with Apple: from iOS 13 and from iPhone XR, Xs or newer, the NFC tags can be used with the standard ...
30,00 EUR
Apple AirTag 4-pack - Find and keep track of your belongings: keys, wallets, luggage,...
  • Keep an eye on your things and find them, your friends and your other devices in the “Where is?” App
  • Just one tap is enough to pair your AirTag with your iPhone or iPad
  • Play a note with the built-in speaker and find your stuff Or just ask Siri for help

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The page contains affiliate links / images: Amazon.de

7 Responses to "Use Apple AirTag for NFC actions on the iPhone: Here's how!"

  1. I've been a reader of this blog for a long time, but now it's time to make a comment:
    1. This article is way too late and is a bunch of other articles
    2. Once again advertising is presented to generate €
    3. A great tech blog has turned into a pure advertising blog

    Unfortunately Sir Apfelot is more important than info today!!!!

    Today I am deleting my subscription and the app

    ...therefore also without greetings Timo

    1. Hello Timo,

      nice that you were there for a long time. That makes me very happy.

      About your comments:
      1. When would have been the right time for this post? when did you order it? Here in the blog, we not only update the latest news, but also tips and tricks that we notice when using (Apple) devices. And if it turns into a guide, all the better. Maybe someone needed them a few months ago - too bad. Maybe someone will need them in two years - then this post will be ready to be called.
      2. Ads are currently embedded throughout the blog, not just this post. If you mean the instructions on NFC tags - I put them at the end so that the instructions are in focus. (Also: The blog has to be financed somehow. Personally, for example, I cannot live solely on air and unfriendly comments.)
      3. This is simply wrong.

      With many greetings
      John

    2. Hi Timo! I've read through Johannes' article, your comment and Johannes' answer and I frankly don't see what the problem is here. The post is quite detailed, informative and anything but advertising. And unfortunately, server costs, costs for employees and people who maintain the website from a technical point of view do not pay for themselves either. It should therefore be clear to every reader that such an extensive project has to bring in money somewhere. I'm trying to do that with restrained banners and the Amazon links, but apparently you're stepping on some people's toes even with that. I'm sorry to lose you as a reader, but that won't change anything about the current concept. You can't please everyone in life...that's a lesson that can't be learned soon enough. Nevertheless, I wish you all the best for the future and maybe we will read or hear each other again. LG, Jens

  2. Hello and thanks for the article.
    I have new AirTags and an iPhone 13.
    Is it also the case with you that the AirTag can only be scanned if you hold it with the white side next to the iPhone camera from the back right (seen from behind)? If I hold the iPhone to the AirTag side with the apple, then nothing happens. With the white side, on the other hand, the action is carried out, but it feels like you have to hit the point on the iPhone very precisely. The way shown here in front of the camera doesn't work for me.

    Am i doing something wrong?

    1. Hi Andrew,

      the NFC signal is polled on the back of the iPhone at the top next to the camera, that's correct. Unfortunately, there isn't much leeway there, I've noticed that too. With the white side of the AirTag facing the iPhone, the signal is detected faster, that's true.

      I don't know what you mean by "as shown here". I didn't include a picture of the supposed correct alignment of the two devices. If you mean the picture after the introduction, that's just a photo to accompany the topic. And the AirTag is rotated so that you can see the Apple logo, more for design reasons than for functional reasons. This was not meant as a request to turn the AirTag that side towards the camera.

      Best regards
      John

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