Will we ever be able to simply place a phone on a table and have it automatically charge? It's hard to say, but Qualcomm wants to be a part of that future, no matter which standards body wins the wireless charging war. As of today, the company is part of no fewer than three different competing standards bodies, including the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) it helped found last year. Two weeks ago, it joined the rival Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), and today it has joined the rival Power Matters Alliance (PMA) as well.
The takeaway is pretty much the same as it was two weeks ago: there are still three competing standards bodies, and the fact that Qualcomm has a finger in each pie doesn't mean that the company intends to change that, or even that the company has the power to do so. However, Qualcomm might indeed be able to help unify one important piece of the puzzle. "It is Qualcomm’s belief that the other entities can leverage the work in resonant wireless charging that has been completed by the Alliance for Wireless Power," a representative told The Verge.
Two types of wireless charging
Qualcomm's expertise in the space is in resonant charging, which works a little bit differently than the inductive charging standards that the WPC's Qi and PMA's Power 2.0 presently use. It works over a slight distance, so you don't need to place a device in a particular spot and orientation on a precisely sized charging pad. At the Power Matters Alliance, the company will co-chair a group (along with Witricity) working on a "dual-mode" specification that lets devices use both inductive and resonant charging, and thus be cross-compatible with either type of charger.
"This is the beginning of the healing process," PMA board member Daniel Schreiber told The Verge.
If by working behind the scenes at all three groups, Qualcomm could at least unify the resonant part of the equation, it could make compatibility easier in the future. That might be another battle, though. Resonant charging is also under development by a number of disparate companies, including Witricity, PowerbyProxi, and Intel, each of whom pledge allegiance to a different wireless power standards body right now. Each has an incentive to make their own intellectual property crucial to the standard that will win out.
While Qualcomm tells us it looks "towards harmonization across wireless power standards," harmony isn't here yet, and companies may continue to hold off on adopting wireless charging until the industry can finalize its specifications and shake out a winner.