A teardown conducted by iFixit shows that Apple is using NFC chips from both NXP and AMS in the new iPhone 6, which began shipping today. The inclusion of an NXP chip was expected but the AMS chip is a surprise addition.
The NFC chip provided by NXP is a 65V10 NFC module and secure element combination which, iFixit says, “likely contains an NXP PN544 NFC controller inside.”
AMS has supplied Apple with its AS3923 booster IC, which is designed to “improve performance of existing NFC controllers for challenging environments such as mobile and wearables” and also delivers “less restrictive antenna design requirements”.
There is no sign in the iFixit images of a “standard” NFC antenna. One possibility is that Apple is using a very small form factor antenna — the AMS3923 is believed to be a close relation of the AMS AS3922 which is designed as a solution for adding NFC capabilities to devices that do not come with built-in NFC.
The AS3922 was developed for use in an external device, such as a microSD card or a SIM card, to boost the signal generated by the small form factor antenna sufficiently to enable a contactless payment to be made.
While this kind of solution works for NFC payments, however, NFC tag reading and writing typically requires a significantly larger antenna — raising new questions over the ability of the iPhone 6 to deliver a full range of NFC capabilities.