Evidence begins to point towards Energous’ development of long-range wireless charging technology for upcoming iPhone models
Date: Wednesday, March 16th, 2016, 08:22
Category: battery, Hardware, iPhone, Rumor
There’s evidence that Apple is looking towards a wireless charging feature for its upcoming iPhone models, albeit it’s been a bit scattered.
It was reported in January that Apple has been working on a wireless-charging technology with partners that would allow its devices to siphon power from “further away from than the charging mats used with current smartphones.”
A Morgan Stanley analyst note from February says the same thing: It expects wireless charging to be added to the iPhone in the next year or two, based on industry experts.
Apple has filed a few patent which may describe its wireless charging goals, the patents going back to 2012.
In spite of Apple’s somewhat hesitant steps towards this, all signs point to one partner: Energous, a publicly traded company that’s firmly in its R&D phase at the moment. It’s come up with a system called WattUp that enables smartphones and other small gadgets to charge from as far as 15 feet away from a wireless transmitter.
Recently, Energous CEO Stephen Rizzone kept alluding to a ‘key strategic partner’ that sounds a lot like Apple. In early 2015, Energous said that it had signed a deal with “one of the top five consumer electronics companies in the world.” That narrows the possibility down to only a few companies: Apple, Samsung, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and Hitachi.
During a conference call on Thursday, Energous’ relationship with its “key strategic partner” kept coming up.
Rizzone did confirm that Energous continues to hit milestones for its number customer. “One path is to actively support our key strategic partner as the adoption process moves to their organization,” Rizzone said. He believes Energous tech will be in consumer hands “late this year” or “early next year.”
Whoever Energous is working for is going to help shepherd the company through the tricky FCC approval process. Apple’s compliance team shepherds hundreds of products through the FCC.
As of now, Energous’ WattUp product is the only product that’s ready to ship. WattUp sends focused signals on the same frequency as Wi-Fi. A chip connected to a small device captures those signals and converts them into power. It’s safe, which is important as it and its partner companies attempt to secure FCC approval.
Energous has been giving full demos of its technology for the past two years, and it appears to work just fine. CEO Stephen Rizzone said that it’s already shipped development kits to partners. According to the company, its wireless-charging system is about 70% efficient already and still improving.
Disruptive Tech Research analyst Louis Basenese said in a research note that a compliance manager at Apple, Michael O’Dwyer, is on a standards committee to develop standard ways to “test wireless power transfer products.”
As Basenese says, it’s unlikely that Apple would be on such a committee unless it saw a scenario in which it would have to test a wireless-charging product it makes.
Oddly enough, Energous’ director of regulatory compliance, via a quick study of her LinkedIn profile, is one of multiple engineers who have moved from battery development at Apple to roles at Energous — one of whom wrote that she “specialized in major accounts.”
If Energous is Apple’s wireless-charging partner, it just gave a few major hints about when you can expect the technology to hit the market. It’s sticking to its “late 2016” timeline for its technology to make it into consumer products, but it’s the “mid-size and the full sized transmitters” that its key strategic partner is interested in.
So while the evidence is stacking up that Apple may be working on wireless-charging technology, it probably won’t be ready in time for the iPhone 7 that’s expected to come out late this year.
Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.