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Why Apple may go its own way with wireless charging

Lucas Mearian | March 16, 2015
When the iPhone 5 was launched in 2012, I wrote an analysis about what it had and what it lacked; most notably, it didn't support wireless charging.

According to MacRumors, Apple has also been eyeing a company called WiTricity, which licenses a magnetic resonance charging technology that can be projected over several feet away. Apple did not return a request for comment on wireless charging.

As Apple researches wireless charging, competitors charge ahead. Earlier this month, Samsung, Apple's chief smartphone rival, announced that its new flagship Galaxy 6 and S6 Edge will have native wireless charging.

The Galaxy 6 and S6 Edge will combine two wireless charging specifications, Powermat (Power Matters Alliance or PMA) and the Qi standard. IHS Research believes Samsung's choice of two specs is "an interesting step" that will help its phones be compatible with a growing wireless infrastructure in places like Starbucks and McDonalds — and shortly, even in IKEA furniture.

This year, IHS expect shipments of wireless charging receivers in mobile phone handsets to top 100 million units.

It's not that Apple doesn't understand the advantages of wireless charging. In its 2012 patent filing, it wrote, "one of the advantages of a wirelessly powered local computing environment is the potential to provide an enhanced user experience.

"For example, by doing away with clumsy and annoying cables and eliminating the need to replace batteries, an easy to use and efficient local computing environment can be provided to the user," the patent description says.

"Apple has filed a number of patents — greater than five — on wireless charging, so they've been working toward that," Perzow said.

So will Apple miss the boat if it insists on a proprietary charging specification?

David Green, research manager for Power Supplies & Wireless Power at IHS Research, said wearable technology like the Apple Watch is less sensitive to a proprietary solution with a specific cradle or dock than it would be for a mobile phone, "where interoperability is clearly a bigger area of focus."

"So on the face of it, it's not necessarily a mistake at this stage for Apple not to include a [wireless charging] compliant solution with the Watch," he wrote in an email reply to Computerworld.

If Apple were to roll out its own specification, then it could charge accessory makers, such as VOXX Electronics, royalty fees to license its technology under its MFi certification program (MFi stands for iPhone, iPad, etc...).

Predicting what Apple may do based on its past is difficult, Green said. On one hand, it has a history of applying proprietary solutions, "but on the other hand, the mobile phone market calls for an interoperable solution."

 

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