Besides a new edge-to-edge 5-inch OLED display, removing the iconic home button and a stainless steel and glass design, one of the longstanding iPhone 8 rumors has been wireless charging. More specifically, long distance wireless charging sans wireless charging pads.
But while recent rumors claim wireless charging is almost certainly a feature that the iPhone 8 will get, Apple’s joining of the Wireless Power Consortium on Sunday suggests true long distance wireless charging might no longer be in the cards.
As a member of the WPC, Apple now joins more than 220 companies in helping create and promote the Qi wireless charging standard.
Founded in 2008, the Qi standard has become the more popular of two competing wireless charging technologies — the other being the AirFuel Alliance (the merged company between the Alliance for Wireless Power and Power Matters Alliance).
Today, you can find find Qi wireless charging technology in many modern smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge, and the inductive mats/pads built into furniture like these from IKEA.
In addition to helping further popularize the wireless charging standard and (hopefully) make it the universal wireless charging standard one day, sort of like how it reportedly helped invent USB-C, Apple’s membership into the WPC is significant for another reason: the iPhone 8.
Qi, as you may already know, is an inductive wireless charging technology. As such, it requires physical contact between a device and a charging pad.
It’s not quite true wireless charging where you can, say, walk into a room and your phone starts charging immediately over the air, and it’s not really that much more convenient than plugging your phone into a charger, but it’s still a nice futuristic convenience to have.
As a WPC member and its weight behind Qi, long-distance wireless charging might be dead (at least for the immediate future). Any possible deal with Energous, a San Jose company that has created wireless charging technology that works up to a 15-feet range, now seems unlikely.
Instead, it now seems more likely the iPhone 8’s wireless charging tech will be based off the WPC’s Qi standard, which would be kind of a bummer since you’ll still need to use a wireless charging pad. Worse is if Apple doesn’t include the wireless charging pad in the box and charges extra for it.
If you look back, Apple joining the WPC isn’t really surprising. Despite the Apple Watch’s wireless charging tech being branded as “magnetic charging” (MagSafe), the underlying technology is Qi compliant as discovered in 2015. So Apple does have at least some experience working with Qi.
That said, while Qi wireless charging does seem more viable for the iPhone 8, it doesn’t mean Apple’s given up on long distance wireless charging for future devices. The company still holds a number of patents for long distance wireless charging and it’s always possible Apple could build its own in-house technology on top of Qi (kind of like how the AirPods’ W1 chip is the “secret sauce” to making Bluetooth pairing work better with iOS devices).