Those in the wireless charging business are probably not surprised to hear that Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has been hiring people with expertise in wireless charging, including two former uBeam staffers. The Verge counts more than a dozen staffers with wireless charging expertise hired in the last two years.
According to a Bloomberg report earlier this year that cited people familiar with the plans, Apple has been exploring cutting-edge technologies that would allow iPhones and iPads to be powered from farther away than the charging mats used with current smartphones. At that time, these sources said the iPhone maker was looking to overcome technical barriers including loss of power over distance, but a decision on implementing the technology had not been made.
uBeam has been working on using ultrasound waves to charge devices from farther distances, so the hiring of the uBeam engineers would seem to fit with that theory. The Bloomberg report said Apple was hoping to add wireless charging to the new iPhone it releases in 2017.
The Apple Watch is the first device from the company to support wireless charging out of the box. It uses the inductive charging capabilities based on the Qi standard.
The Verge notes that other applications may use the expertise Apple has been acquiring. For example, it has hired a lot of engineers who specialize in ultrasound technology to work on haptics and sensing for wearable devices, so the recent pick-ups from uBeam could be aimed at developing technology unrelated to charging. Apple declined to comment to The Verge.
One of the most popular examples of wireless charging is in the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, which come equipped with dual-mode Qi and Power Matters Alliance (PMA)-certified low-frequency charging. IHS forecasts that 10 percent of smartphones shipped this year will be capable of wireless charging.
LG Innotek, a subsidiary of LG, recently revealed plans to start mass production within the year on a 15-watt wireless charging module that it says is three times faster than current five-watt wireless solutions. It uses standards put out by both the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) and AirFuel Alliance. The AirFuel Alliance is the result of the merger last year of the Alliance for Wireless Power and PMA.
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