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Qualcomm Introduces Wireless Charging For Metal Devices

July 28, 2015 - Written By David Steele

Current wireless charging standards rely on magnetic induction to excite a coil within the handset itself. Wireless inductive magnetic charging is less efficient than conventional, wired charging (usually via a microUSB cable), using more energy for a given recharge state and generating more heat, but is also blocked by metal material. North American semiconductor designer, Qualcomm, today announced it has engineered a wireless charging technology that works through metal devices. The technology, based on Qualcomm’s WiPower technology, is Rezence standard compliant. Qualcomm has made the technology for a wireless charging metallic device are available for those businesses who license WiPower. Qualcomm’s General Manager of Wireless Charging, Steve Pazol, said this on the matter: “Building a wireless charging solution into devices with metal exteriors is a significant step for moving the entire industry forward. Today, more device manufacturers are choosing to utilize metal alloys in their product designs to provide greater structural support and, of course, aesthetics. QTIs engineering advancement eliminates a major obstacle facing wireless power and opens up the continued adoption of this desirable feature to a much wider range of consumer electronics and use cases.” In other words, Qualcomm are meeting consumer needs by making their wireless technology compatible with metallic chassis.

WiPower, along with other Rezence-standard technologies, operates at a frequency described as being more tolerant of metal objects although Qualcomm have not released the detail as to how exactly the technology works, other than when a compatible device is close enough, it will be recharged by the WiPower charger. The new feature is in addition to WiPower’s ability to charge at up to 22 watts worth, which is at least equal to and in some cases faster than similar competing wireless charging technology.

Qualcomm’s development underpins that the American company is much more than a System-on-Chip designer, but it also highlights some interesting questions. One is that there are multiple standards. Google introduced the Nexus 4 in late 2012 with built-in Qi wireless charging, which has since been supported by a range of devices and phone backs, plus Ikea have introduced furniture with built-in Qi charger pads. In 2013, Starbucks and McDonalds introduced a different and incompatible form of wireless charging. We have seen manufacturers introduce technology that allows a device to be recharged from different standards of charger such as MediaTek and Samsung. It will be interesting to see if WiPower gains traction from the smartphone and tablet manufacturers.