Wireless charging turmoil as Samsung invests in PowerbyProxi

by: Gary SimsOctober 1, 2013

wireless-charging-s3You may have heard of the disparaging term, designed by committee, meaning that the design process was full of compromise as it pandered to the different interest groups. That could be what is happening in the world of wireless charging. There are currently three rival groups trying to create the definitive wireless charging standard, Samsung and Qualcomm both belong to two of them (which are of course incompatible with each other). Now Samsung has boosted its interest in the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) and the Qi standard by investing $4 million in a company called PowerbyProxi.

The money is actually coming from the Samsung Ventures Investment Corporation (SVIC), the global investment arm of the Samsung Group. The support seems to be a move by Samsung to buy an interest in the next extensions to the Qi standard. Tony Francesca, a VP at PowerbyProxi, has been appointed chairman of a WPC task force that is designing a wireless power resonant extension to the Qi specification.

The other two groups working on wireless charging are the Alliance for Wireless Power, or A4WP and the Power Matters Alliance, or PMA. And this is where it gets confusing. Samsung is a founding member of A4WP along with Qualcomm and Powermat Technologies. But Powermat Technologies is also a founding member of the PMA. Other members of the PMA include Toshiba, Pantech and ZTE. Qualcomm wasn’t a member of the WPC but last week it also joined that group and is now supporting for the Qi standard. Confused, I don’t blame you!

Other than the blatant attempt to control the chairman of the WPC task force, it seems that Samsung and Qualcomm have effectively abandoned the A4WP group and are trying to take over the WPC. Qualcomm has told the EE Times that it plans to work from the inside to merge the two standards (WPC and A4WP) even though they aren’t compatible.

Back in the real world – away from the committee rooms, the only wireless charging technology that has made it into any actual phones is the WPC’s Qi standard. Different phones from Nokia, Google, Blackberry and LG offer support for wireless charging via Qi.

What consumers want is a definitive standard that will allow wireless charging to become a norm in a variety of public places from coffee shops to airport lounges. What do you think, are the rival committees hindering the development of a global wireless charging standard?

  • ConCal

    Can’t wait for apple to swoop in and take take all the credit for bringing inductive charging to the masses.

    • MasterMuffin

      Apple will use PMA and say how it was the first to bring this “world changing” technology to smart phones, because they aren’t necessarily lying because everyone so far has used Qi D:

      • ios7 equals Android 2.3

        The nexus 4 and 7 have wireless charging capabilities. I use a Nokia qi charger everyday. It’s great.

        • MasterMuffin

          I know, but they’re qi, not PMA

    • John-Phillip Saayman

      Thinking the same thing

    • abazigal

      Their take (if any) would likely be very different from the current wireless charging models, which requires that you place your phone on a charging mat (which basically negates the benefits of not having to use any wires in the first place).

      I recall reading a patent where Apple built a wireless charging emitter into their Macs, and it could wirelessly charge your IOS devices and bluetooth peripherals without the need for any mats.

      That would be more useful, IMO. Negates the need for me to ever change the batteries in my wireless keyboard and trackpad, and my iphone is automatically charged while I am using it near the computer, without me needing to leave it lying on a mat of any sort.

      It would basically be like what Apple has done with the other technologies. Refine them and make them more accessible and beneficial to the mass consumer market. As it is, I don’t particularly care for how wireless charging is currently being implemented anyways.

    • Fantastico

      If they weighed in behind a standard and deployed it across their products, consumers and other companies would benefit by following that standard. For example, KHTML/WebKit and, more recently, Nano SIM.

    • RarestName

      So far I’ve seen no one use wireless charging before. I doubt they even know that their phones support wireless charging.

      • TechDevil

        Seconded. A family relative of mine has a brand-spanking-new Samsung smartphone, and when I asked what her opinion was about wireless charging, I got a weird look and a “huh?” as an answer. Clearly, the average man (or woman, hah) has no idea exactly what wireless charging means.

        • MasterMuffin

          If someone doesn’t know what wireless charging means, that probably means the (s)he doesn’t understand English, because the name says it all. Wireless charging means wireless charging, no wires needed to charge. Simple :D

          • RarestName

            The question is: how?

            Wireless mat?

            Built into the table?

            The possibilities are endless.

          • MasterMuffin

            I liked the idea of charging using the radio waves in the air!

          • TechDevil

            Thank you RarestName for replying quicker than me. He said it all, there are way too many possibilities. Had wireless charging been through the airwaves, then we would all walk around speaking about it and we would all know about it. But since there are so many possibilities, most people don’t want to learn it all until we have one solid, working technique that people love. And by the way, some people buy smartphones pretty much because it’s modern, quick, makes our lives easier and it’s fun to use. Some of them could not care less about whether they have a phone with 3G or 4G, so yes, it is indeed possible for people that don’t have an interest in technology to be clueless about certain features.

          • MasterMuffin

            You didn’t get my comment. I wasn’t talking about the technology behind it. You said that she didn’t know what wireless charging ment and I find that hard to believe because the name says exactly what it means. I believe she didn’t understand how it works

          • TechDevil

            Then I apologize for using the wrong words, I wrote it in a hurry. I meant that she had not heard anything about the technology, and was clueless about how the technology worked, just like you believed, in that case.

          • MasterMuffin

            Good piece :D

      • someguy

        i have it on my s4 and have been using it for ages on my old touchpad using the touchstone which i have to say rocks its a pity the two systems are not compatible.

    • APai

      in a way apple does have an advantage – they have the biggest captive market and they can get away with whatever shit they can claim, because in the end, they’ll have sales to show

  • John-Phillip Saayman

    What does the S4 charge on then.?

  • Jason Yuen

    This is where having a plastic removable back cover is a good thing. Wireless charging doesn’t work if there’s a piece of metal between the charging coil and the charger. Samsung has done this right by building in charging contact pins into the phone (like the S3) and allowing people to change the back cover for a wireless charging cover. In this sense, the phone can use any standard as the wireless charge goes through those contact pins from the battery door. It makes perfect sense for Samsung to invest in multiple standards when it costs next to nothing for them. Samsung’s deisgns allow for flexibility (as of current designs) which means their phones are actually forward compatible with any new standards that arise.

    I use a QI charger for my S3 and 2013 nexus 7 and they’re great. It reduces USB port wear and makes it easy to top up a charge any time.

  • DroidnTech

    Having owned the Palm Pre that came with wireless charging, and the relatively inexpensive wireless charging puck – wireless charging was the coolest thing used every day. And that was 4 years ago. In this day and age, I am still dumbfounded that all cell phones don’t come with this functionality. Of course, some corporation wants to reinvent the functionality and corner the market. Wireless charging should already be ubiquitous. But then again, it seems that all anyone cares about on these sites are size and specs.