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.
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6 comments on this article
I’m not buying into the doom-and-gloom “can’t read an NFC tag” argument yet. The demo of opening door locks at hotels and other discussions from Apple’s tech team indicate that Apple will, at some point, expand NFC well beyond payments.
Opening a door is still communication between 2 active devices, not a passive tag
Wrong, the phone act like a passive card
This “boosting” chip is only doing active (as opposed to passive) load modulation. This means we are only looking at doing card emulation here (RFiD).
What “boosting” adds, is the ability to do tag card emulation with tiny antenna form factors.
Can someone provide a layman’s explanation as to why the AMS chip is required? Do other phone manufacturers use a booster?
The AMS3923 gives the NFC transceiver the ability to cope with a dynamic environment and smaller antennas. It should provide more consistent performance and better range than the NXP chip could on its own. It may let them use smaller NFC antennas while still passing the EMC requirements.
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