Tags: One Idea On How Apple Can Make Mobile Less Awkward

Switching between the real world and our phone is clumsy. This is a loose sketch of how Apple (and only Apple) could make it better.

Imagine you walk into a Chipotle, you’re waiting in line (always a line, right?), looking around trying to kill time, and you see a poster on the wall for Chipotle’s order-ahead app. You place the corner of your iPhone on the poster — like physically touch it to the wall — your phone vibrates, and a notification lights up that the Chipotle app is downloading.

Or you’re at an Applebee’s. The bill comes, you pay, the server returns with a receipt and one of those laminated cards describing a survey you can fill out online to get a free slice of chocolate cake. You tap your iPhone on the card, phone vibrates, and the survey opens in Safari.

Isn’t that refreshingly better than whatever awkward QR-code/URL/search-keyword scheme that Chipotle and Applebee’s use today?

In more technical terms, Apple should produce passive NFC tags that perform some restricted set of actions, like download an app or open Safari.

This has to be a first-class citizen of iOS, or else distribution is a no-go. It’s a reasonable next step beyond Apple Pay (maybe without the TouchID requirement, for free content). It’s an evolution of iBeacons, which require an installed companion app. Heck, it’s even easier with an Apple Watch — no need to take out a phone, simply nudge your wrist.

It also feels like the sort of Apple feature that the technorati would dismiss as basic and primitive, but (executed properly) could feel like magic to everyone else. So, that’s a good sign.

Anyway, here’s to iTags, Apple Tags, or Tags. May you ship, one day.