The new Android 4.2 Jelly Bean mobile phone and tablet reference devices make use of a Broadcom NFC controller chip instead of the NXP chips Google used in earlier models. Broadcom has also contributed its NFC software stack to the Android Open Source Project.
The choice of Broadcom for the new Android 4.2 Jelly Bean reference devices' NFC chips marks the first time that Google has not opted for an NXP NFC controller since it first introduced NFC with the Nexus S in December 2010.
The Broadcom chip was first announced in September 2011 and enables multiple secure elements to be active on a single phone at the same time — making it possible, should Google implement the option and carriers support it, for consumers to be offered both a mobile wallet supplied by a mobile network operator and a mobile wallet supplied by a bank, handset maker or operating system supplier.
The new devices also make use of an NFC software stack developed by Broadcom, rather than the stack developed by NXP which was used in earlier devices. Broadcom's stack is chip vendor-agnostic and is compatible with the NFC Forum's new NFC Controller Interface specification. It has now been contributed by Broadcom to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), allowing it to be used freely by Android NFC device makers.
The new stack, Broadcom's Mohamed Awad told NFC World, "puts all the different silicon vendors on an equal footing", rather than making it more likely that an Android device maker will pick a Broadcom chip simply because it makes the stack. "We believe our advantage is going to be in the quality of our silicon."
That said, Awad continued, there are advantages for Broadcom's NFC chip business in terms of its profile within the Android community. "We've established ourselves as a leader in technology within that ecosystem".
"NFC represents a huge, industry-wide opportunity and Android is the ideal environment for evolving this technology and its applications," says the chip maker's Michael Hurlston. "Broadcom has developed an open stack that supports all interfaces and replaces existing proprietary solutions. Broadcom is committed to unleashing the massive potential for NFC not only in the mobile payments sector, but much more broadly in gaming, home applications and simplified device-to-device connections that will allow us to recognize the full value of NFC."