Qi Killer? Alliance for Wireless Power Makes Waves at CES 2013

The last thing consumers want is another tech standards war, but the Alliance for Wireless Power believes that it has a better wireless charging solution than the competition. After all, Samsung is on board for a reason. Here at CES 2013, the consortium outlined its plans for the coming year and why it believes the marketplace will ultimately side with its technology.

One of the big goals for A4WP is to nail down a wireless power specification during the first half of the year. It will also release an official go-to-market name for the tech and a logo. But a catchy brand won’t matter unless smartphone-makers, carriers, automakers and furniture-makers see the benefits of the A4WP spec. Based on what we saw during a few demos, Qi could wind up becoming the HD-DVD of wireless charging. But that’s only if this association moves fast.

To show off what makes A4WP different, we saw multiple devices charging on the charging cafe table at the same time, each with different power requirements. You can even place a book between your phone and the table and it will juice up, which showcases the unique spatial freedom the A4WP spec offers. We also saw a couple of phones charging in a mock car center console. Even with one phone laying slightly on top of the other, it was still getting juice. That’s a key differentiator; the device doesn’t have to be touching the charging area.

Although the A4WP clearly offers some advantages, it’s not as if Qi is standing still. It is likely working furiously to advance its own spec to match the A4WP’s features. But that also means anyone who owns a Qi device today will likely be out of luck, as backward compatibility could be off the table (as it were).

Yet another unique benefit of A4WP’s spec is the way it uses low-power Bluetooth as a command-and-control mechanism. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 to pass messages back and forth between the device and the transmitter, so it knows when to start charging.

With Qualcomm, Samsung, Texas Instruments and other industry heavyweights on board, the A4WP has plenty of industry support, but it hasn’t locked down any U.S. carriers or other big-name smartphone-makers. So 2013 will be an important proving ground for A4WP, which will include a certification working committee for giving devices a stamp of approval. 

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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