Dead batteries won’t kill NFC on iPhone XS and XR

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iPhone 6 with a dead battery
A dead battery used to be a big problem. It's slightly less of an issue with the iPhone XS.
Photo: Apple

It’s irritating when your iPhone runs out of battery. But it can actually be life threatening if you depend on your phone’s NFC feature to get into your dorm room or onto a train. 

That’s why the iPhone XS and the other 2018 models still offer some NFC transactions even when down to the power reserve.

An Apple support document (pdf) promises “If iOS isn’t running because iPhone needs to be charged, there may still be enough power in the battery to support Express Card transactions.”

This works for both Express Transit cards and Student ID cards with Express Mode turned on. 

iPhone XS power reserve required

There still has to be some slight power remaining in the battery. But you can use NFC if your iPhone will turn on long enough to tell you its battery is dead. 

“Pressing the side button displays the low battery icon as well as text indicating Express Cards are available to use,” according to Apple.

To save drain on the nearly-dead battery, you’ll get a haptic notification that the  transaction has happened, rsther than an on-screen one.

Still a new thing

Express Transit cards aren’t common outside of parts of Asia yet. According to Apple, they’re only in use in Japan or in Beijing or Shanghai, China.

Apple just added support for Student IDs to iOS 12. Duke, the University of Alabama, and the University of Oklahoma are adopting NFC-enabled Student IDs this fall. Johns Hopkins University, Santa Clara University, and Temple University will bring the capability by the end of the year. “Students can gain access to places including the library, dorms and events, and pay for snacks, laundry and dinners around campus simply by adding their ID cards to Wallet,” Apple promised. Even when their phone is dead.

Happily, this feature will work when the iPhone XS launches later this week. We’ll have wait for some other promised enhancements, including dual SIM support.