Apple iPad Pro 2020 stylus closeup
  • A charging standard developed by the NFC Forum could bring wirelessly-charging styluses to devices in the near future.
  • The technology allows charging speeds of up to one watt to supported digital pens.

You won’t find too many smartphones or other portable devices that arrive with a dedicated stylus. Active versions of these digital pens let users draw and note more accurately, but they require regular battery top-ups between use. Now, a new wireless charging standard may finally make styluses more useful and longer-lasting.

A memorandum of understanding signed between the Universal Stylus Initiative (USI) and the NFC Forum aims to open the doors to wirelessly charging styluses. The technology, dubbed Wireless Charging Specification (WLC), uses the same antenna in a smartphone or portable device for communication and power transfer. Products that are certified by the USI can take advantage of NFC-based charging at speeds of up to 1W. Traditionally, NFC has been used by OEMs to complete wireless payments or transfer files between devices.

Some companies that make stylus-compatible Chromebooks, tablets, laptops, and even smartphones like Samsung and have relied on internal charging to power the styluses on their devices. Others, like HP, Microsoft, and Apple, have used external ports and connectors for this purpose too. But both of these solutions require the stylus to be stowed away or connected to a cable. Passive charging via NFC from a smartphone or any other NFC-supporting device would negate the need for a dedicated physical charging solution. It also means the stylus can be charged provided it’s near its host device, increasing its use time.

According to USI, the technology is open and non-proprietary, so it wouldn’t cost firms much to implement. It’s unclear if any manufacturers are planning to introduce the WLC standard to their upcoming products. Notably, WLC also doesn’t seem intrinsically limited to styluses. We wouldn’t be surprised to find the NFC Forum’s charging technology on other low-power hardware in the future.

Next: Best phones with NFC — what are your options?

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