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iPhone 5: No room for NFC? Well, maybe there is…

The ‘will they or won’t they’ speculation over whether the iPhone 5, expected to be unveiled on 12 September, will come with NFC continues to rage and the latest analysis suggests that it won’t — although two early Apple patents may mean that the conclusions drawn may not turn out to be completely accurate.

Apple

Earlier this week, a new feature shown in images of a purported iPhone 5 could mean that the iPhone 5 could come with NFC. But an analysis by Anandtech of those images and other information believed to be known about the latest Apple device leads them to conclude there is no room for an NFC antenna in the new iPhone.

“Given the primarily metal backside of the new iPhone, it’s highly unlikely that NFC is in the cards for this generation,” they say. “In fact, given the very little space at top and bottom dedicated to those glass RF windows, you can almost entirely rule it out.”

“There’s also a healthy number of signalling pins in the flex cable leaving the mystery chip, some of which appear to be signalling for the front facing camera which is part of the assembly, others for earpiece, proximity, and ambient light sensor,” they add.

A patent application filed by Apple in December 2007, however, suggests that the iPhone maker could find other ways to add NFC to the device. The ‘Touch Screen RFID Tag Reader’ patent describes a method of building an antenna into a touch screen, thus avoiding the issue of a metal back interfering with the signal.

“The RFID antenna can be placed in the touch sensor panel, such that the touch sensor panel can now additionally function as an RFID transponder,” the patent explains. “No separate space-consuming RFID antenna is necessary.”

The patent was granted in April 2011.

A second patent granted in July 2011, meanwhile, covers the addition of an NFC antenna to electronic devices with metal elements. “Electronic device with conductive housing and near field antenna” covers a variety of ways in which NFC could be added to a metal-backed iPhone 5 without causing signal issues.

In the meantime, Apple patent applications making mention of NFC continue to appear. The latest, titled “Motion based payment confirmation”, was filed in January 2009 and granted on 28 August 2012.

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