Wireless power and charging are two ideas that have been around for several years now, but have been met with a relatively lukewarm reception from the public. But Samsung and Qualcomm think they have the problem figured out. The two companies along with five others have joined forces to create the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), a consortium with a single set of standards for wireless charging that its members hope will make wireless charging and power as ubiquitous for electronics as the microUSB port is today.
If you've been following the wireless charging and power market, you may already know about a similar group of companies promoting their own set of standards and technology called the Wireless Power Consortium. That group, which is made up of 111 companies including heavyweights like Verizon, HTC and LG, uses a wireless standard called Qi. That technology, which requires that a device being charged sit directly on its charging pad, has been the standard of choice by most, but Qualcomm and Samsung are looking to change that.
The two companies along with their fellow A4WP members are pushing a new standard that would allow users to charge their devices via a wireless pad, but wouldn't be forced to place the device directly on the pad. That standard, which the A4WP has yet to name, offers manufacturers more freedom when it comes to producing charging pads.
A4WP members showed off some early prototypes that looked rather promising. One such item, produced by Gill Industries, featured a charging station built into the bottom of a table. Because the table creates a space between the charging pad and device being charged, the Qi technology wouldn't be able to work in this application. During our hands-on time with the technology, we were able to hold an iPhone 4 slightly above the charging station and still charge it.
Samsung also showed off the A4WP standard by charging two Galaxy S III's on a single pad through a coffee table. The technology is also being considered for use in car cup holders. In this application, the charging pad would wrap around the inside of the cup holder, allowing you to just drop your phone in as you normally would and begin charging it automatically.
Gill Industry representatives assured us that the technology is safe for humans and actually functions on a higher band than the Qi technology, meaning it offers shorter wavelengths.
So what stands in the way of A4WP's success? In order to integrate the technology within smartphones, the companies involved have to figure out a way to keep the charging elements from increasing the phones' thickness, something consumers would frown upon. Cost at this point is still a matter that has to be addressed, as well as widespread acceptance of the new standard by other technology manufacturers. On top of that, the A4WP has to contend with the Wireless Power Consortium and its member companies.
The A4WP has shied away from talk of a format war between its technology and the Wireless Power Consortium's Qi, but whenever two competing technologies in the same industry are fighting for widespread acceptance, the specter of the Betamax, VHS wars of old can't be too far behind.