The NFC standardizations body is looking to evolve the tech for better range

Tap-to-pay services like Apple Pay may soon no longer need the actual tapping part to work. That’s because NFC, the technology that enables you to pay at shops by touching your phone to a payment terminal, is getting new capabilities over the next next two to five years, such as a communications range boost, more powerful wireless charging for tiny devices like earbuds, and more (via Android Authority).

NFC, which stands for Near Field Communication, is inside thousands of devices today ranging from smartphones to video game-enhancing figurines. Now the body that decides how to standardize the technology, the NFC Forum, is outlining key areas that will move NFC tech forward through 2028. The Forum is comprised of hundreds of companies, including Apple, Google, Huawei, Sony, NXP, and Qualcomm.

Nintendo’s Amiibo figures use NFC, and perhaps future iterations with upgraded NFC won’t need this instructional on where exactly to make contact.Image: Nintendo

One of the friction points of using NFC tech is its incredibly short range. For an NFC connection to be successful, the devices need to be within 5mm of each other — which is short enough to make “contactless payments” a misnomer. The NFC Forum is looking to stretch that “four to six times” further, which would make it more like 30mm (or 1.18 inches).

With the added distance (and power), people taking public transit in places like New York City could more easily wave their hand bags on terminals instead of taking out their phones. And merchants can stress less about customers magic-wanding their smartphones around payment terminals hunting for the precise connection point.

Standards-based wireless charging of individual earbuds? Maybe!

The NFC Forum is also looking to increase wireless charging power from the 1W currently, to a more usable 3W. While that’s far less than the Qi standard’s max of 15W, it’s enough for the Forum to boast that “The change will bring wireless power and charging to new and smaller form factors, disrupting industrial design while defining new markets.” So, standards-based wireless charging of individual earbuds? Maybe!

The roadmap includes changes meant to make point-of-sale transactions easier, as well. Apple had enabled a Tap to Pay API last year that lets developers turn iPhones into payment terminals. Future NFC standards aim to make this functionality native so that businesses and individuals can receive payments anywhere.

In addition, the NFC Forum is looking to add a “multi purpose tap” that could do several actions in just one tap, like having all your crew’s tickets being allowed entry at a concert with just one tap instead of swiping to the next one by one. And NFC is planning for a feature that can act like an info drop on the device it’s attached to, specifically to share its composition for easier recycling instructions.

The NFC Forum will be presenting its development roadmap during a public webinar on June 27th.