Meet the new wireless charging technology, same as the old wireless charging technology.
It's called Rezence (pronounced like "reh-zence"), and it is the new brand for the Alliance 4 Wireless Power (A4WP), a group of high-profile technology companies -- which counts Samsung Electronics, Qualcomm, and Intel as key members -- pitching a next-generation form of wireless charging.
In fact, it hopes Rezence becomes as well known as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
Wireless charging, which allows you to place a phone or other device on a pad to recharge its battery, is found in select tech products and stores, but it's largely still a niche feature.
One of the biggest impediments to the broader adoption of wireless charging -- which seems like a no-brainer kind of feature to have -- are three competing and incompatible standards:
- There's the Power Matters Alliance, which has created charging stations in select Starbucks and McDonald's, as well as cases for popular phones such as the iPhone. The group is largely driven by Powermat Technologies and Procter & Gamble.
- Then, there's the Wireless Power Consortium, which uses a standard called Qi that is commonly used in Nokia smartphones and other select devices from manufacturers such as HTC and LG Electronics.
- Lastly, there's the A4WP, which prior to Thursday's announcement, didn't have a public presence or brand, and doesn't yet have products in the marketplace.
With the PMA and WPC battling it out in the market with no clear winner, it's the A4WP that hopes to usurp both with arguably better technology.
Rezence is named after the technology it is based off, called magnetic resonance. This version of wireless charging allows for multiple devices to lie on the same pad to get a charge, be moved around, or even go through small obstructions such as a magazine or piece of paper.
Qi and the PMA standard both use a technology called inductive charging, where devices need to be specifically laid on a charging pad in order to connect. Both the PMA and WPC are starting to look for ways to add the kinds of features that Rezence promises.
In the meantime, Rezence is going to get rolling with products in the coming year, with many launching next year, according to Geoff Gordon, a product manager at Qualcomm who serves as the chairman of the marketing committee for the A4WP. He said that the Consumer Electronics Show will serve as a showcase for these products.
It seemed as if the wireless charging powers were shifting with Samsung making an investment in WPC technology and Qualcomm joining both the WPC and PMA.
But it appears Qualcomm's participation in all of the different groups is its way of trying to bring a little harmony to the wireless charging world, as opposed to a concession to rival standards.
"We're going to help drive the industry to drive toward an A4WP specification," Mark Hunsicker, senior director of product management for Qualcomm, said in an interview with CNET in October. "We felt it was in the best interest of the A4WP to join these other forums to help harmonize a single spec across multiple entities."
"It's not uncommon for companies to participate in multiple standards," said Gary Matos, a strategic planner for Intel and marketing director for the A4WP. He noted that for companies like Intel and Qualcomm, it was their obligation to meet the needs of their customers, which meant participating in different kinds of standards.
There remains time for a universal standard to take hold despite the fragmented market. Matos said the existing market for wireless charging products and accessories is small, and noted the return rates have been high.
Another challenge for all of the standards: Apple's seeming lack of interest; it hasn't committed to wireless charging for its products. Industry observers believe a drive by Apple to raise awareness for the feature would bring it to the mainstream.
Apple has had discussions with everyone, Gordon noted, but he wouldn't say whether the company would commit to any standard.
For now, the A4WP is hoping its brand will bring the group a little buzz.