Wireless charging isn’t a new concept and has been around for a long time now. However, adoption of the technology has been a slow process since the user experience hasn’t been very convenient. This slowly started changing when brands began focusing on smaller gadgets like earbuds and smartwatches.
Instead of charging a phone with a massive battery, it’s faster to charge a small battery that serves even more portable gadgets. However, wireless charging comes with a caveat.
To enable wireless charging, an induction coil is placed inside the gadget to create an alternating electromagnetic field. The wireless charger also has an induction coil, and the two can transfer electrical energy wirelessly. Furthermore, placing this coil inside any gadget will take up space. And space comes at a premium when the manufacturer is trying to add more and more features while trying to make the product slim and sexy.
In fact, Apple removed the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7 because it took up too much space as the company wanted to add its own Taptic Engine for 3D touch and the home button. With this, it not only offered a unique user experience on the iPhone but this also resulted in a lot of angst for users as they had to now depend fully on wireless audio.
Here’s where NFC technology can come in. While the bus has sailed for the 3.5mm jack as it is old technology and now increasingly redundant thanks to a change in user behaviour — NFC can come into the fore to democratise wireless charging further. It can also be done in a cost-effective way without user-hostile changes like the one in the iPhone.
Coming back to wireless charging, how will NFC help?
- To start with, NFC (Near Field Communication) is a wireless communication protocol that works in a short range of just 4cm. It’s a low-speed medium that can transfer information both ways. Want to pay wirelessly at a store? Just tap your phone, and the NFC transmitter will interact with the receiver on supported PoS (Point of Sales). Many speakers, headphones, earbuds, fitness trackers, smartwatches, and more come with NFC pre-installed.
- The NFC Forum (the association that looks after standardization of protocol) has updated the NFC standard to include support for wireless charging. In simpler words, future NFC-enabled devices could offer wireless charging functionality. Instead of relying on a coil and other wireless charging protocols like Qi, the tiny NFC antenna can handle it autonomously now.
- While this will altogether remove the need of an additional coil, it has its limitations. NFC can offer up to 1W speeds compared to base Qi speeds of 5W and 10W in case of wireless fast charging. One thing’s for sure; we can’t rely on it to charge a phone.
- But we can use it to charge smaller gadgets like wireless earbuds, fitness trackers, and other IoT devices. It would help companies reduce production costs as well as save up on space. The NFC antenna will be capable of exchanging data as well as power.
- The wireless charging standard is now added to NFC, but it’ll take some time to trickle down to the end-consumer. It’s a piece of technology that’s sitting right there to be utilized. It also depends on brands whether they want to leverage it or depend on their proprietary protocols. We expect wide-scale adoption since brands have been open to NFC and Bluetooth and utilized them to the best of their abilities.