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Qualcomm ships wireless charging gear

Helps one of three would-be standards, A4WP, to narrow timing gap with Qi and PMA


Published: 1 May, 2013

READ MORE: Qualcomm | Standards

There are at least three would-be standards for wireless charging of mobile devices, and Qualcomm has thrown its weight behind the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), producing the first commercial test gear.

This is important for A4WP which lags behind rival groups in availability. The chip giant has started shipping test equipment based on the A4WP's specifications, allowing handsets to be charged without needing a pad, just by placing them up to 45 millimeters away from a wireless power source. That source could be placed inside furniture or behind a wall, and then repower multiple devices.

Qualcomm calls its technology WiPower, and says it will be far easier to instal, especially for retail outlets wanting to provide wireless power, than the current pad-based systems, as supported by Nokia and others. A4WP uses magnetic resonance so that, instead of having to line up a device perfectly along a charging pad, only a small part of it needs to touch the surface.

The A4WP specs were released in January and Samsung is another founder member of the Alliance. Despite the support of two mobile heavyweights, the largest number of industry players currently backs a rival group, the Wireless Power Consortium, which runs the Qi platform. This has 136 member companies, compared to 39 for A4WP and 69 for a third organization, the Power Matters Alliance (PMA). The latter's platform is called Power 2.0.

The space is very much up for grabs still. AT&T, for instance, favors the PMA system, developed by Powermat Technologies and Procter & Gamble, which has gained some presence in the US thanks to support from Starbucks, and recently signed up LG and ZTE. But Qi is most established, even though it requires pads - it appears in Nokia smartphones and in the Galaxy S4 (Samsung is hedging its bets as usual, including Qi and PMA in its current flagship handset but also supporting the A4WP effort).

Of course, Apple has not thrown its weight in the ring yet, having refused to commit to wireless charging at all so far.

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