back to article Apple's adoption of Qi signals the end of the wireless charging wars

Apple's keynote may be good news for fans of its products, but it must have made grim listening for members of the Airfuel Alliance. For nearly a decade there has been a standards war going on in the wireless power field, initially between three competing technologies but latterly two groups – the Airfuel Alliance and the …

  1. eldakka Silver badge

    Cupertino committed to bringing out Qi-enabled phones and its own industry-standard wireless charging pad.


    Apple has actually been using Qi for quite some time in the wireless charging pad for its Watch line. But it tweeked the standard so that only Apple hardware could use the charging station and also so that it could charge a lot for the hardware.

    Ahh, that's more like it, the world makes sense again.

    1. Youngone

      I don't think standards are Apple's thing.

      Ever tried to Bluetooth a photo from your Android phone to your Mum's iPhone?

      1. big_D Silver badge

        I don't think standards are Apple's thing.

        Ever tried to Bluetooth a photo from your Android phone to your Mum's iPhone?

        My car has full Bluetooth capabilities and reads the address book from the phone, BT music streaming, BT handsfree... As long as you aren't using an iPhone, that has to be plugged into an extra USB port... Only the handsfree telephony works with iPhone AFAIK.

        With Android and Windows Phone, it works flawlessly.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Well that's your car.

          In my car my iPhone works just fine, as does my daughter's iPhone in her car.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            That was a 2010 Toyota Verso (Android and WP connected via BT for handsfree, music and addressbook, iPhone AUX for music, BT for handsfree without addressbook), a 2012 Citroen C3 (Android and WP connected via BT for handsfree, music and addressbook and voice commands, iPhone via AUX for music, BT for handsfree without addressbook) and a 2016 Nissan Qashqai and Nissan Pulsar (Android and WP via BT for handsfree, music and addressbook, Android also BT for Nissan apps, iPhone BT for handsfree, music, addressbook and apps only over USB cable).

            VW Toureg also had problems with BT connections and iPhone.

          2. D@v3

            cars / bluetooth

            Bluetooth with iPhones seems to work fine for certain things.

            Sure, in my car, wirelessly, i can listen to and control the music, and send / receive (have read out) text messages as they come in and make and receive phone calls.

            However, as OP said, you try doing something as simple as sending a photo or phone contact card between an iphone and an android (or anything other than an iThing for that matter). Aint gonna happen. Even between iThings, it's not bluetooth that does those things but ad hoc wifi (in the form of Airdrop)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Yep, it's laughable how incompatible iPhones are. I recall a ski chalet trip where we we all sharing pictures and movies between various brands and OS versions using Bluetooth and WiFi direct, only the iPhone guys were left out... We eventually emailed them a few weeks later after leaving them in Apple stew for a while...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Photos to your mum

        Yes a few days ago and it wasn't just a photo (are you stalking me). We were well out of cell coverage and everyone else received the files fine via bluetooth but not my mom. She was the only one with an iphone and couldn't understand why it didn't want to work. She said my previous phone which cost peanuts compared to the apple one did could receive them. She's not what I would describe as a fangirl but she just accepts that somethings aren't possible on an iphone like receiving things via bluetooth.

      3. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Ever tried to Bluetooth a photo from your Android phone to your Mum's iPhone?

        Not quite my mother but we recently did go to see some old friends who got married earlier in the year. They'd made a short (around 4mins - 15mb) highlights video of their wedding. They wanted to share it with us all to say thank you for being there on our big day or here's what you missed if you weren't. We all agreed to receive it via bluetooth or wifi (Xender) which was fine for two of us. We're not iPhone users but when they tried it with the other couple who were there for dinner (but not the wedding) it didn't work. Both were very perplexed that they had these expensive phones that didn't offer what was considered by everyone a basic function of bluetooth. After dinner we watched it on the tv instead.

    2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Why do you think that is an oxymoron? Apple launches three phones which can charge using industry standard, third-party charging mats. They also launched their own charging mat, also industry standard which others can use.

      I don't see the oxymoronism here.

      1. Smitty Werben Jueger Man Jenson


        You don't see Apple and industry standard together in the same sentence as an oxymoron?

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: oxymoron

          The article would tend to demonstrate that it's not.

    3. Velv Silver badge

      Having read the brief (sad, I know), Apple has produced a pad that complies with the standard and can be used by all devices that follow the standard. It also includes some enhanced features that it hopes the standard will encompass in the future.

      Finally Apple is trying to be evolutionary with everyone else instead of purely revolutionary on their own.

      1. Naselus

        Pretty astonishing move, though. They will simply never sell a $120 Apple-branded charging pad if every $20 Samsung one also works with the phone (well, except for the frothing fanbois, but really, that's not the bulk of iPhone sales).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Eh? FireWire, they played with others. USB. Thunderbolt they played with Intel. USB type C has a steering group.

          Lightning is still Apple proprietary, but it predates USB type C which adopted some of its advantages over microUSB.

  2. ratfox Silver badge


    I for one welcome this. It's all nice to have competition to determine who has the best solution, but at some point it becomes really annoying when things don't follow a single standard.

    I would argue that it's better to have a single standard even if it's not actually the best one. For example, Betamax might have been superior, but it was very convenient for ten years when VHS was dominant and people could expect their tapes to work with any device they were likely to encounter.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Amen!

      I remember a time when every house and office had multiple Nokia (fat barrel-tipped) chargers lying about. It was good (though at the time phone battery lasted a week, so it wasn't critical).

      A friend of mine swears by his Qi chargers... I might well give them a go, since I have a Nexus and my housemate a Galaxy 7. Are they all much of a muchness, or does a £30 model offer anything over a £10 charger bought if t'internet? Do they play nice with magnetic strips on cashcards? (My housemate uses his phone case as a card wallet)

      1. Mario Becroft

        Re: Amen!

        I also use Qi all the time (and have even retro-fitted Qi charging to all my devices, including phones and tablets that don't come with it--not with a case, but actually adding the electronics inside the phone/tablet). I can hardly remember the last time I had to plug a micro USB cable in, as I simply have a Qi charger sitting enywhere I am likely to want to put my phone or tablet.

        To answer your question, Qi is a bit fraught in some ways and the different priced chargers on the market definitely reflect varying quality--but sometimes not in the way you'd expect. There is lot of stuff in the Qi spec about e.g. communicating the actual power needs of the device to the power supply in real-time, so it can continually adjust its output accordingly. But if the charger is a cheap rubbish one, it may not support this protocol correctly, and blast out maximum power all the time, causing overheating. But again, I have a stack of cheap $2 no-name Qi pads and they seem to be as good as or better than some of the very expensive ones with fancy marketing. YMMV.

        I don't doubt that Apple has this absolutely nailed with their end-end implementation. And Samsung and Google Nexus has always had great wireless charging support--they seem to have more flexibility about positioning, and smartly PWM the charging, or stop charging with a message if too far off-centre. Also, Samsung phones show an alignment marker on-screen the moment you move it near the charger, making it trivially easy to position exactly right.

        The elephant in the room with Qi is that you have to line up the phone to within about 10 mm to achieve optimal inductive coupling without too much loss to heat (and corresponding early death of your phone battery). Also, the phone has to sit almost directly on the charger, so that even a slightly-thick case can make charging unreliable in some cases. In theory max Z-height is 6 mm, but this is not always achieved, depending also on the materials in the gap--air is different from a case with possible metallic parts. Supposedly the resonant charging features present from Qi 1.2 address this (giving 30mm+ Z height/offset), but I have yet to find a Qi 1.2 compliant charger or phone with those specs.

        Despite its limitations, you soon get used to wireless charging, and I would never be without it.

        I've not observed any adverse effects on magstripes (another feature of Qi that may be supported to better or worse degree in each charger is detection and avoidance of foreign objects), but the thickness of your card and case may be enough to make the Z-height out of spec. Depending a lot on the charger and phone in question.

        If you understand the limitations and it still fits your use-case, I highly recommend it. You could always dip your toe in the water by buying a cheap charger and see how it goes.

  3. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    for once...

    I don't want to be cynical about this. If Apple truly adopt the standard then it's going to become a universal standard for all phones and for once I can only see this as a good thing.

    An actual pro consumer move. Who'd've thunk it?

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: for once...

      @Sarge - you mean like the way they standardized on 3.5mm jack plugs for sound? An actual pro-consumer move -- until they changed.

    2. Lysenko

      Re: for once...

      Personally, I'm not convinced that a company with only ~15% of the market is in a position to dictate standards (witness the wholesale industry adoption of lightning ports and Objective C - not). If Samsung and Huawei agree on something (~34% of the market) then the rest of the world probably has to take notice. Apple, not so much.

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: for once...

      I think it's more like backing the winner: Samsung's support for Qi from the S5 (with a cover) had effectively already ended the race with the success of the S6, S7, S8 and derivatives. Fanbois like to scorn Samsung but it sells nearly as many of its flagship phones as Apple does, which is why IKEA provides tables with Qi.

      Manufacturers would not have liked seeing their margins squeezed even further by having to use the also ran as opposed rounding the corners, making the plastic white to justify the higher prices.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: for once...

        > Personally, I'm not convinced that a company with only ~15% of the market is in a position to dictate standards

        Market share isn't the only factor. 3rd party developer involvement also helps, and whilst developers are drawn to a big market share, they also appreciate commitment. And money. I haven't seen recent reports, but in the past we've seen articles about how more money is spent on iOS apps than on Android apps (people with pricey phones spend more money on software - shocker).

        Of course, sometimes Apple doesn't dictate anything, but merely sees which ways the wind is blowing (see floppy discs, and later, optical discs).

        Sometimes Apple gets it wrong - the Mac Pro was a bet on multiple GPUs, but then GPU devs favoured single, more powerful GPUs which broke the Mac Pros thermal design.

        Your example - mass adoption of Lightning - was never going to happen because it is proprietary to Apple. However, many aspects of it were adopted in USB Type C.

        1. Lysenko

          Re: for once...

          @Dave 126

          You're right about Lightning since it was an Apple attempt at MCA (Micro Channel Architecture) and was always doomed to the same fate (for the same reasons) whether they licensed it or not. Wireless charging is a different kettle of fish and with chargers costing <£10 it can't realistically be made into a premium feature accessible only to North American wallets (sorry: "pocket books"). That, in turn, means that the global sales of the Android camp dictate where the market goes.

          The point about developers is also instructive. There is a lot of hype to be had out of running the same language everywhere (e.g. Node JS) and yet the Apple insistence on Obj C persuaded precisely no-one (statistically) to adopt the language in any other field (despite the fact that compilers exist). Why? Same reason as above. iOS is a trivially small niche compared to all the Java out there. Any normal company would do what Sony did re. VHS (adopt it): Apple decided to invent Swift. I'm not contesting Apple's business/profits acumen, but it isn't a company that drives standards. If it were, I would be using a one button mouse and a PowerPC (or 68nnnn) computer.

        2. J. Cook Silver badge

          Re: for once...

          "Your example - mass adoption of Lightning - was never going to happen because it is proprietary to Apple. However, many aspects of it were adopted in USB Type C."

          Same with the MagSafe power connectors- I would have *loved* to see non-apple laptops use those, but they are/were an Apple proprietary design that they refused to license out. (Certainly a friend of mine would have loved to see them, as he did a roaring trade replacing broken power jacks on laptops- he is something like one of three guys in the state I'm in that's willing to do it.)

          With lightning cables, you have to pay apple a license fee to make them, follow their design spec, and quite possibly buy the funny little chip from them or their authorized supplier.

          Apple is similar to Microsoft and Cisco in the aspect of they will take an otherwise vanilla industry standard, and 'enhance' it with their own proprietary extensions.

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: for once...

      Qi chargers and micro-USB charge clients (like those nice thin/flat semi-flexible ones you can stick to the bottom of your phone) are relatively cheap and effective.

      I've done a lot with Qi at the hardware level, and so I'm kinda happy with this.

      As long as Apple sticks with "the standard" it should be a bit easier to go someplace and find a few courtesy charger pads laying about that will work with YOUR device (Apple, 'droid, or whatever).

      now... will they try an 'Embrace, Extend, Extinguish'? Let's hope not...

  4. Dwarf Silver badge

    Witeless charging - how novel

    So novel in fact that my toothbrush has done it for about a decade

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Witeless charging - how novel

      A decade?


      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: Witeless charging - how novel

        Accept no substitutes! Anything not manufactured at Wardenclyffe is a fake!

  5. Roger Greenwood

    100 years ago

    ". . wireless power transfer has been around for over a century"

    ". . it's only left to bayonet the wounded"

    I see what you did there.

  6. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    A bloody nose for Analists?

    A number of no doubt highly paid Analists including the pseudo diety called Kuo got this wrong.

    They seemed to predict that Apple would release wireless charging but it would be proprietary and run at half speed.

    It seems that they got it wrong.

    Kudos for Apple for going with the QI system but naturally they will be called out for copying other phones. Whichever way they went they'd get slagged off.

    No matter, I don't think I'd use wireless charging no matter what type of phone I had. It just seems so inefficient when compared to taking a second or so to plug in a cable but that is probably just me.

    1. Dave123

      Re: A bloody nose for Analists?

      I believe the analysts got the half speed charging bit right.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A bloody nose for Analists?

      I don't think I'd use wireless charging no matter what type of phone I had. It just seems so inefficient when compared to taking a second or so to plug in a cable

      I've used Qi on a Sammy S3 for a year or two, but just replaced it with a phone that doesn't have any wireless charging capability. Qi works well when you place the handset properly, and is then far easier to use off and on throughout the day, much easier than faffing around with a crappy micro USB lead, meaning your phone tends to stay topped up. A Qi charger pad is only a few quid, so why not give it a try if your phone supports it.

      Where Qi falls down is that even well positioned it warms the phone up considerably, perhaps 10C or more above ambient, and if off centre the phone can actually get quite hot - around 50 C. That will considerably shorten the service life of the battery, I reckon, and make premature failure more likely. When you can replace the battery yourself for a tenner (like on my old S3) that's not really a concern. If the battery is sealed in, and costs £50-100 to have replaced by a technician, then baking your battery every time you charge it doesn't seem such a good idea. I'm not sure if the new resonance charging is any better in this respect.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A bloody nose for Analists?

        > Where Qi falls down is that even well positioned it warms the phone up considerably

        Panasonic QE-TM101 is the answer - no need to accurately position the device, just pop it down and leave it to the charger to work out where the device is located. Bonkers idea, works perfectly (Nexus tablet).


  7. WonkoTheSane Silver badge

    Apple adopts "industry standard"?

    Surely, that's the 2,345,590,234,575,985,845,792,349,572nd sign of the Apocalypse!

  8. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Paris Hilton


    Decision making process at Cupertino...

    Qi or AirFuel?

    Qi is pronounced 'chee'. That sounds almost like 'chai', lets go for a ludicrously overpriced drink.

    Yes boss, we decided on chai. Sorry, yes chee. OK.



    (for what it's worth, I think it was the right decision anyway)

    1. Brenda McViking

      Re: Choices

      Chee? I had no idea it was pronounced like this. I'm still going to call it Queue-Aye, ryming with fanboi-in-chief Stephen Fry...

      As for chai being expensive, it's about 5 rupees a cup here where I live in India, even with brexit that's about 6 pence. But then Apple's execs have always had their own alternate reality which the rest of us have to conform to, and no doubt it's 5 quid a cup in Shoreditch/Cupertino/Whereever's trendy right now.

      As for the choice of Qi, then yes, I think that's been obvious for the last 4 years or so, not that I've ever used it.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Choices

        "Chee? I had no idea it was pronounced like this. I'm still going to call it Queue-Aye, ryming with fanboi-in-chief Stephen Fry..."

        As I understand it, 'Qi' is how you spell the Chinese word for 'energy', 'chi' [pronounced 'chee'] because that's what the 'Q' is apparently, a 'ch'.

        Not to be confused with the girl android from Chobits...

  9. anothercynic Silver badge

    Tweeked? TWEEKED?

    But it tweeked the standard...
    El Reg, you know better. Tweeked... So Apple doped the standard with methamphetamine? *eyeroll*

    Yes, I'm being sarcastic, and yes, downvote this post already!

  10. cb7

    Race over? I doubt it

    I don't know much about the competing standard, but reading between the lines, given Intel's backing and given that Intel sells more CPUs for laptop's than it does for mobile phones, I would hazard a guess that the alt standard is more suited to higher power devices?

    I still struggle to picture widespread usage scenarios where wireless charging for a laptop is more practical than wired though.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: Race over? I doubt it

      I doubt it, it's probably "just slightly different". Intel have longed to get into the handset (and base station) market which QC dominates - to the point of attempting a partnership with Apple to supply chips to at least one model of their iPhone (sadly not as well performing as the QC variant, perhaps because of missing IPR that helps QC with their performance in LTE).

      Cars are all starting to be configurable with a wireless charging pocket/hole, which is infinitely preferable to fiddling with cables on entry & exit. If only their was better adoption of the screencasting-type connection to get (suitable) phone apps on the car display - e.g. your satnav of choice rather than the shite that is usually bundled with the car.

    2. Naselus

      Re: Race over? I doubt it

      "I still struggle to picture widespread usage scenarios where wireless charging for a laptop is more practical than wired though."

      Same as the scenario for phones - build it into couches, desks and coffee tables. Put your laptop on the table and it tops itself off. Especially useful when you have laptops plugged in under your desk and the exec using it doesn't want to get down on the floor to unplug it before he goes home; the number of requests we get for a 'spare' charger to take home forever is appalling.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the green hypocrisy

    Strange Apple is soooo green, so pro the PARIS /KYOTO show -, pro Greenpeace , etc

    you could see it with the green V row on the KeyNote slides.

    But they forget to mention that the transfer of energy true wireless charging consumes way more energy than transfer energy true a copper cable ...

    Saving energy daily on small devices in big big numbers is in my opinion way more effective than banning the diesel engine powered car.

    But But Sir you cannot sell this slogan to the green left public


POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020