Charging cables for phones and tablets just edged a little closer to oblivion. Two of the three major coalitions backing incompatible wireless charging standards announced plans to join forces, potentially a big step toward unifying wireless charging standards and pushing the technology toward mass adoption.
It's not clear, though, how quickly this agreement will simplify life for people who just want to power up their gadgets wirelessly without having to worry about charging-station compatibility issues. And the standards war isn't settled, either, as a third major wireless-charging standards group wasn't included in this announcement.
Formally, the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) agreed to support each other's technical standards. That should eventually result in charging hardware that works with most new mobile electronic devices. (Will any of it be backward compatible? No word at this point, though you probably shouldn't count on it.)
Henry Samueli, co-founder and chief technology officer of Broadcom, a voting member of A4WP, told me in December that "the biggest impediment to [wireless charging] is that there are different standards in the market." At the time, Samueli hoped the groups would find a unified approach, which would minimize some of that complication. Now, PMA's inductive charging will include a specification supporting A4WP's Rezent standard, and vice versa.
The odd man out here is, notably, Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) and its Qi wireless charging standard. WPC is backed by Verizon, Motorola, Nokia, Energizer, Belkin and several other big companies in the wireless market. (Samsung and HTC are members—Samsung even released an optional Qi-based wireless charging kit for the Galaxy S4—but both manufacturers also belong to the PMA.)
I've reached out to both A4WP and WPC for comment, and will update this post as more details come to light.
Image courtesy of Powermat.
Update: In an email via press representative, AW4P Marketing Chair Geoff Gordon said, "we are open to conversations with other organizations." This seems to indicate that the agreement may not be necessarily closed to WPC involvement in the future.
Dr. Kamil Grajski also chimed in: "The A4WP and PMA undertook their effort as an initial leadership step. Industry consolidation is likely to be a multi-step process." He also added that product announcements will vary by particular company, but "based on the Rezence products that have achieved certification to date, we anticipate product announcements throughout 2014.”