Qualcomm Enables Wireless Charging of Devices Wrapped in Metal

The chip maker is adding capabilities to its WiPower technology that will enable mobile devices that are built using metal to charge wirelessly.

mobile charging

Qualcomm has developed a technology that will enable devices made with metal to charge wirelessly, an important step for an industry that is seeing more smartphones and tablets made with metal alloys.

The company has taken its WiPower magnetic resonance technology and created a solution that device makers can use when they build their mobile products and other businesses—including automotive and furniture companies—that want to integrate wireless charging technologies into their offerings, according to Qualcomm officials. The techniques to enable wireless charging for devices made with metal are available now to WiPower licensees.

"Up until now, smartphones with a metal design could not be charged wirelessly—the know-how simply did not exist," Geoff Gordon, staff manager for product marketing at Qualcomm, wrote in a post on the company blog.

Wireless charging of devices is getting a lot of attention, due in large part to the convenience it offers mobile device users who don't want to have to be restricted to cords and electrical outlets. Vendors like Intel are pushing for a wire-free future for computing, and three industry groups over the past few years have cropped up to push standards for wireless charging.

Two of those groups—the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and the Power Matters Alliance (PMA)—merged earlier this year in an effort to accelerate the availability of wireless charging technology. The A4WP has been pushing the Rezence magnetic resonance wireless-charging standard, while PMA supported inductive-charging methods.

The third group, the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), has been developing its own Qi standard.

Qualcomm is a founding member of the A4WP and a supporter of the magnetic resonance technology, which among other benefits, allows for the charging of multiple devices with disparate power requirements on the area and at the same time. In addition, magnetic resonance allows for devices to charge at a distance from the charging area, which is a benefit for companies that want to build wireless charging technologies into their products, such as cars and furniture.

The WiPower reference architecture is compliant with the Rezence standard.

"While WiPower and other solutions available from A4WP are unique in their ability to tolerate metal-based objects such as keys and coins within the charging area, until now this same characteristic did not apply when wrapping a device in metal," Gordon wrote. "With the Qualcomm solution, we expect the adoption of wireless charging to accelerate by removing a previous barrier for phone designers."

Introducing the capability to charge devices that use metal is an important step for the industry, particularly given some of the ongoing trends with mobile device makers, according to Steve Pazol, general manager of wireless charging for Qualcomm.

"Today, more device manufacturers are choosing to use metal alloys in their product designs to provide greater structural support and, of course, aesthetics," Pazol said in a statement.