How wireless charging will change our devices

Plus: can more efficient displays make a difference?

The latter joined the PMA in February 2013, stating that it would deploy wireless power in select McDonald's restaurants in Europe. It already operates conventional charging points train stations including in London Paddington and the Gare de Lyon in Paris, 16 European airports (including Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle). Expect wireless upgrades soon. "Our decision to become a PMA member was based on several factors," said Maija Itkonen, CMO and Founder of PowerKiss.

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"The PMA system has a unique layer of telco-grade intelligence that allows venues to monitor the health, usage and policies of all their charging spots. Secondly, we believe the PMA now enjoys the momentum and the necessary investment from major industry players to bring wireless power to life for consumers."

Who's in the Qi camp?

HTC, Huawei, Hitachi, LG, Motorola Mobility, Nokia, Pentax, Philips, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba ... and 120 in total. About 15 million devices already have Qi technology inside, according to the WPC, most notably the new Samsung Galaxy S4. However, Qi isn't a native feature in the Galaxy S4, but rather an add-on accessory that comprises both charging pad and battery cover.

Though LG is hedging its bets by belonging to both bodies (not an unusual stance in this kind of scenario), its Nexus 4 is fitted with Qi despite Google-love for Powermat.

Which format will win?

From a device perspective Qi stands a good chance if Samsung actively popularises it, though no doubt Apple has its own in-house plans for the iPhone 5S and next iPad/iPad Mini that could scupper any kind of universal cross-brand charging system. A third format? Yes, that's what we need.

Don't rule out the PMA standard; as well as PowerKiss, it also finds favour with Starbucks. Could its tables and chairs be embedded with charging pads? Yes, they could, which suggests that the 'winning' format could be the one that creates the biggest and best charging infrastructure, and fast. After all, device makers don't operate on loyalty and will very quickly swap to whichever emerges as the industry standard. We'll drink to that.

What kind of wireless charging products can we look forward to?

Intel-powered ultrabooks that can 'beam' charge to a smartphone placed next to it, in-car charging cradles, and furniture with integral charging pads. Meanwhile, Apple has filed a patent application for wirelessly powering keyboards and mice without the need for batteries.

Among a slew of new innovations at the Mobile World Congress 2013 was a demo of a smart wireless charging mat from NXP that used NFC to trigger wake-up, thereby allowing the charging pad to remain completely switched off when not in use. As well as a 'true-zero standby mode' the use of NFC could also mean a handshake to kick-start Bluetooth audio streaming without the need for pairing. Best of all, NXP's prototype supports multiple wireless charging standards, automatically detecting which standard the device is using.

We're in for some big changes in terms of product design, but there's bound to be a long interim period where gadgets come with optional wireless charging packs and cables, too. They might be a pain to travel with, but USB cables are on the cusp of becoming universal ... achieving the same with wireless induction charging mats could take a very long time.