This morning, we heard some news that would be exciting if true — that Belkin is working on what could be the very first consumer gadget with truly wireless charging, the kind that actually beams a small amount of power through the air and across a room.
That’s what Wi-Charge founder and chief business officer Ori Mor told TechCrunch this morning — going so far as to claim that Belkin would launch a specific, “center-stage consumer product” with the tech later this year.
But Belkin is now denying much of that report, telling The Verge that not only is there no product as of today, but the two companies also haven’t even moved to the product concept phase yet.
Belkin spokesperson Jen Wei confirmed that Wi-Charge and Belkin do have a partnership to explore some product concepts but that “the TechCrunch story has taken liberties for sure on what we are able to promise right now.”
“Currently our agreement with Wi-Charge only commits us to R&D on some product concepts so it’s too early to comment on timing of viable consumer products,” Wei writes.
“I can’t tell you exactly what Belkin is launching, which is a bummer, because it’s a center-stage consumer product” - Mor
Bizarrely, Wi-Charge isn’t defending its founders’ statements one way or another: when we reached out, spokesperson Merrill Freund wouldn’t even confirm or deny whether its founder was telling the truth in that TechCrunch interview mere hours ago. “We are not commenting about Belkin beyond what is in the release,” he wrote, adding that Wi-Charge does intend to launch two products with wireless charging “on our own.”
It’s not clear whether Mor was lying or simply spoke without Belkin’s authorization and is clamming up now. But it is pretty clear he didn’t misspeak — TechCrunch has quote after quote from Mor insisting that Belkin has at least one product on the way.
Either way, if Belkin hasn’t moved to the product concept phase yet, it seems unlikely that a product will come out for sure this year, especially in the middle of the pandemic when many companies are having a tough time shipping products around the world.
Belkin did seem excited about the potential for a Wi-Charge partnership in a press release this morning, though:
“In line with our continued commitment to deliver the best charging experience to our customers, we are excited to uncover the full potential of Wi-Charge’s unparalleled over-the-air wireless charging technology,” said Brian Van Harlingen, CTO, Belkin. “The future of charging has been transitioning from wired to wireless for years now and we anticipate over the air wireless charging to accelerate this evolution.”
If a Belkin product doesn’t materialize, it would be far from the first false start for truly wireless power transfer. We’ve been following the tech on and off for over a decade, watching companies like Energous and uBeam make promises and demos and go nowhere fast. More recently, Chinese phone makers, including Xiaomi, Oppo, and Motorola, have announced versions of the tech, but none offered release dates last we checked. There’s no question that the tech works on a basic level; the demos are convincing, but companies haven’t stuck the landing yet.
The previous “oh, we’re actually getting a real product” moment was also from Wi-Charge, when it announced the tech would appear in the Alfred ML2 lock at CES 2020. But we’re not seeing evidence that lock went on sale almost two years later, and the only mention of it on the company’s website is buried in a hub page.
Wi-Charge’s tech also isn’t the kind that would charge a laptop or phone, by the way: it only beams 1 watt using infrared light, which is barely enough to charge a pair of wireless earbuds and their charging case. Still, it could keep low-energy devices continually powered, saving batteries, and it beams power up to 40 feet away, according to the company.