Chipmaker Qualcomm has announced its latest Near Field Communication chip this evening that is being boasted as ultra-low power, with a footprint 50 percent smaller than other chips, at a significant cost savings. NFC technology has been long rumored to land in devices out of Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple, allowing customers to establish connection between devices or for mobile payments (see: Google Wallet). While there’s no concrete evidence this is a chip Apple may use, its set of specifications certainly make it sound appealing. However, with Phil Schiller’s comments in September, it may be a while before the company factors NFC technology into its devices. “It’s not clear that NFC is the solution to any current problem. Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today,” said Schiller shortly after the iPhone 5 event. At any rate, we’ve seen prototypes that show Apple is at least looking into the technology. Qualcomm said its new chip will begin hitting OEMs in Q3 2013, but the question is: when will Apple choose to include NFC? The full press release is below:
Qualcomm Atheros Introduces Ultra-Low Power Near Field Communication Chip for Mobile Devices
NFC Solution to Drive Next-Generation Mobile Payments and Wireless Connectivity
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – December 5, 2012 – Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) today announced that its subsidiary, Qualcomm Atheros, Inc., introduced a new ultra-low power near field communication (NFC) solution that will enable mobile devices with contactless communications and data exchange, including next-generation mobile payments. The QCA1990 is the industry’s smallest, ultra-low power system-on-chip (SoC) with an overall footprint that is 50 percent smaller than current NFC chips available in the market. When paired with Qualcomm Atheros’ WCN3680 1-stream, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi/Bluetooth 4.0/FM chip, the QCA1990 will enable seamless user experiences in the mobile, computing and consumer electronics markets.
The QCA1990 offers platform-level integration with the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 and next-generation processors and modems to seamlessly enable NFC on Qualcomm’s OEM partner smartphones and tablets. The QCA1990 software stack complies with the NFC Forum Controller Interface (NCI) and is fully integrated to enable faster time-to-market for customers. Its state-of-the-art radio frequency (RF) performance exceeds requirements established by EMVCo and the NFC Forum. With supported antenna form factors that are eight times smaller than current market offerings, QCA1990 offers significant cost savings for OEMs to integrate NFC at a significantly lower price point.
As consumers continue to rely more on their mobile devices for new and extended applications, battery drain can be a significant issue; the QCA1990 employs extremely low-power polling algorithms to prolong battery life. The QCA1990 also offers a wide range of secure element options, both embedded and SIM-based, while supporting multiple secure elements concurrently, including support for a dual-SIM configuration.
“Qualcomm Atheros believes NFC will be another key element of an enriched experience for smartphone and tablet consumers. As consumers continue to adopt functions like mobile payments and contactless data exchange, Qualcomm intends to be at the forefront of delivering simple, easy-to-use solutions to OEM partners,” said David Favreau, vice president of product management, Qualcomm Atheros. “By enabling client devices, Qualcomm Atheros is paving the way for rapid adoption of products that incorporate NFC technology.”
The QCA1990 is pre-tested to meet the requirements from payment schemes, mobile operators and OEMs globally. The QCA1990 will sample to customers starting in the first quarter of 2013, with commercial designs with leading OEMs expected in the third quarter of 2013. For more information, please visit http://www.qca.qualcomm.com.