NFC Wants to Pack Wireless Charging Where Qi Won’t Fit

A pair of true wireless earbuds in a case, sitting atop a OnePlus 8 Pro phone.
Cameron Summerson

Today, the NFC Forum (the group responsible for the implementation of NFC) announced a new specification. But rather than focus on communication across devices, the new Wireless Charging Specification (WLC) focuses on charging your devices. And while you might think Qi has that locked down, NFC is looking at your accessories that might not have charging coils, like headphones and smart watches.

First, to be clear, the WLC isn’t looking to supplant or replace Qi wireless charging. The NFC Forum didn’t design the spec for charging your phone or tablet. It tops out a one-watt charging, so it doesn’t have a chance of charging your phone in any case.

So what is it for then? Your NFC-enabled devices that can’t fit a Qi wireless charging coil, either due to size or cost. If your headphones use NFC to pair to your phone or your smartwatch can handle payments, but they don’t have wireless charging coil, this spec is for you.

The WCL allows a device to use its existing NFC antennae as a wireless charging antennae. So a pair of true wireless earbuds could keep cost and thickness down by skipping Qi wireless charging and using NFC instead. As long as your smartphone supports the standard, you could “reverse wireless charge” your earbuds.

But it’s not just smartphones that can handle the charging aspect. Any NFC device with enough juice to power another device could get in on the action. If, for instance, your portable battery supports NFC, it could charge your NFC-enabled smartwatch, fitness ring, or digital pen.

Qi charging coils are large enough that it can be difficult to incorporate them into small devices. And it adds additional cost to the final product. The Wireless Charging Specification sidesteps those issues.

But, the NFC Forum only formally adopted the specification today. While it did announce the concept in 2019, full adoption is a necessary step on the road to implementation. It’s now up to manufacturers to investigate the WCL and choose to incorporate it into devices. It’ll be a while before the specification becomes more than a promise.

Source:  NFC Forum

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smarthome enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »

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