AirTags can help you find your lost items, whether they’re on the other side of the world or buried in your sofa. But Apple’s Bluetooth beacons can also be used to trigger Automations in the iPhone Shortcuts app, just like any other NFC tag. Here’s how to set it all up.
Using AirTags for NFC Automations
While AirTags are most useful when finding things, Apple also decided to throw NFC (near-field communication) compatibility in there, too. Using this, you can scan the AirTag with your phone or Apple Watch by bringing it close, then trigger a huge variety of actions using Apple’s Shortcuts app.
Apple’s Shortcuts app comes preinstalled on iPhone and iPad, but you can download it from the App Store if you’ve previously uninstalled it.
If you don’t have an AirTag yet, you can buy one for $29—or buy a pack of four for $99. If you already have an AIrTag, you can use your existing AirTags for this and keep using them for tracking objects. Even when used to trigger Shortcuts via NFC, AirTags still perform their primary purpose as a tracker.
For this reason, you should think carefully about what you want your AirTag to trigger, and tie it to whatever it is you’re tracking. For example, if you have an AirTag on your gym bag then you might want to use it to trigger Do Not Disturb mode, start a workout, and shuffle your running playlist in Apple Music.
Of course, you could also just use an AirTag as an NFC trigger and forget about the tracking—but you can buy basic NFC tags for much less money and use them for Shortcuts automations.
Apple AirTags (4 Pack)
Track your lost objects and automate tasks with the Shortcuts app, all in one convenient package.
How to Set Up AirTag Automations in Shortcuts
To use any NFC triggers “passively” you’ll need an iPhone XR, iPhone XS, or newer. While the iPhone X and earlier phones have NFC capabilities, NFC triggers don’t work passively in the background and instead rely on app intervention.
For this reason, you won’t see NFC listed as an automation trigger in Apple’s Shortcut apps while trying to set this up on an older device.
To use an AirTag as an NFC trigger, launch Shortcuts and tap on the “Automation” tab.
Tap “Create Personal Automation.”
Scroll down until you see the “NFC” trigger and tap it.
Note: If you don’t see the “NFC” as an option in the New Automation list, it isn’t available on your iPhone. You’ll need a newer iPhone to do this.
Tap “Scan,” and then scan the AirTag (or any NFC tag you wish to use) and give it a name. You can now use the “Add Action” button to add any actions you would like performed when you scan your AirTag with your iPhone or Apple Watch.
Hit “Next” followed by “Done” to finalize your automation.
Do More With Shortcuts
The Shortcuts app can help you automate your entire life using a huge variety of inputs and triggers. You can create complex home automations with HomeKit devices or use geofencing to trigger actions when you come within range of your home or workplace.