Samsung to carry on with key wireless charging standard

Powermat CEO Thorsten Heins says any future Samsung smartphone with wireless charging will include his company's wireless charging standard.

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Roger Cheng
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The Galaxy S6 Edge has wireless charging built in. Juan Garzón/CNET

BARCELONA -- Samsung Electronics has broken the ice when it comes to wireless charging.

That's according to Thorsten Heins, chief executive of Powermat, the company behind one of the key wireless charging standards. He said the standard will come packed into any future Samsung smartphones capable of wireless charging.

Samsung made a big bet in wireless charging by integrating the feature into its latest flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge , which were unveiled Sunday. Having such a high-profile device utilizing wireless charging could do a lot to generate awareness and demand for the feature, which has been quietly around for years.

Part of the issue has been compatibility. The Powermat standard, which has been adopted by the Power Matters Association, or PMA, does not play nice with charging pads utilizing a different standard called Qi from the Wireless Power Consortium. Samsung got around the issue by including both Qi and PMA standards.

Heins said Samsung will commit to the PMA standard in future devices.

The WPC isn't so sure. John Perzow, vice president of market development for the group, says he suspects Samsung will incorporate wireless charging into phones, but noted that he didn't have any visibility on Samsung's future products.

"They are committed to the feature, but open to using whichever standard is most effective," Perzow said.

A Samsung spokeswoman declined to talk about future devices.

Given Samsung's presence in the market, its support of wireless charging may signal the start of a broader trend.

"Samsung provided this trigger point," Heins said in an interview at the Mobile World Congress trade show. "It's a courageous step."

In the past, most of the smartphones used Qi for wireless charging, while Powermat invested in getting merchants such as Starbucks and venues such as Madison Square Garden to install charging pads. It has relatively less success in getting PMA into smartphones aside from a few select models, so the Galaxy S6 marks a big victory for Powermat.

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"What it says is both are viable standards," Heins said.

There's a third group called the Alliance for Wireless Power, backed by heavy hitters such as Qualcomm and Samsung, but its technology isn't commercially available. The PMA and the alliance, known as A4WP, plan to merge in July.

Though Heins said the merger between the two groups is a good sign for wireless charging, he didn't comment on a potential alliance with the WPC aside from a general comment about being open to it. The WPC had a victory of its own beyond Samsung when it said this week that IKEA would sell furniture with wireless charging capabilities powered by its Qi standard.

Heins said the IKEA deal was a good sign that wireless charging was catching on, but that it was more for the home, while the PMA is focusing on public areas such as coffee shops, airports and stadiums.

There's a potential fourth player in Apple and its Apple Watch, which uses an unknown version of wireless charging. Heins declined to comment on whether Powermat was talking to Apple.

"We'll see what they're doing," he said.

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