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Wireless charging war gets more interesting, as Qualcomm joins Qi

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Gallery Photo: Qi wireless charging at Mobile World Congress 2012
Gallery Photo: Qi wireless charging at Mobile World Congress 2012

Wireless charging standards are a bit of a mess. There are at least three standards bodies vying to be the correct way to wirelessly send power to your devices: the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) favored by AT&T and Starbucks, the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) backed by Verizon, and the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) formed by Qualcomm and Samsung. Each standards body has quite a few member companies as of today, and each has compelling arguments for why it should succeed. Unfortunately, they're also all pushing incompatible standards, so they can't all win in the end.

That's why people might have reason to be excited about today's news: Qualcomm has decided to take a seat on the board of the WPC. The assumption being that there's no way Qualcomm can lead two different standards bodies and so one must inevitably go away. Unfortunately, that's not necessarily how this will work at all. Just take Powermat, which first defected from the WPC to become a founding member of the PMA, then helped found the A4WP as well.

Many baskets for these eggs

Besides, a Qualcomm representative told Engadget that the company still "believes the A4WP represents the most mature and best implementation of resonant charging," so it doesn't seem like the company has plans to stop supporting that. For Qualcomm, a chipmaker which makes a substantial chunk of its money licensing wireless technologies, it might simply be about positioning its WiPower intellectual property wherever it's likely to make the most money once the wireless charging war gets sorted out — rather than putting all its eggs in one basket.

That seems to be the strategy that other wireless charging supporters are pursuing as well. Phone makers like HTC, LG, and Samsung are all playing the field right now. The only way to tell which technology will win is to look at which companies are actually rolling it out. Perhaps the coffee cup will prevail. Verizon Wireless also just took a seat on the board of the WPC, though, and we're curious if the #1 US cellular carrier could help choose the winning standard.