Wireless charging alliances teaming up to work toward a cable-free world

Announcements about standards committees tend to rank just above earnings calls and chipset specs on the excitement scale. But anyone who’s ever had to fumble around for a charging cable—so, everyone—should be interested to know that wireless charging took an important baby step toward ubiquity on Tuesday: The Alliance for Wireless Power and the Power Matters Alliance have agreed to make their two standards work together.

Wireless charging is a great feature—so convenient, so free of wires. But up until now it hasn’t caught on in a big way, largely because the multiple standards used by the current wave of products don’t work together. Consumers don’t particularly care which standard ultimately wins; we just want “wireless charging” to mean “I put my phone down on this charging mat, and it charges.”

Duracell Powermat

Wireless charging stations built into counters at Starbucks? That's the dream. With the standards combining, we're getting closer to living that dream.

The Power Matters Alliance (PMA) has pilot programs in Starbucks and McDonald’s, and its inductive charging technology is the standard used by case-based charging systems like the Powermat. The Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) focuses on resonant wireless charging, with products carrying the standard’s Rezence branding.

Tuesday’s agreement doesn’t mean that suddenly resonance charging and inductive charging will become interchangeable. Instead, both groups will adopt the other’s specs in their own specs for transmitters and receivers. Essentially, they’ll coexist side by side to keep those electrons flowing to your phone in perfect harmony.

But even with the alliance between A4WP and PMA, there’s another standard called Qi that’s backed by the Wireless Power Consortium. Qi is the wireless charging technology built into the Lumia 920, as well as some handsets by HTC and LG.

Everyone needs to charge their phones, so demand for wireless charging figures to be huge. Hopefully Tuesday’s announcement will keep the ball rolling toward one standard, or at least multiple standards built into each device, so consumers don’t have to worry about which wireless charging mat they can drop their phone onto to juice it up.

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