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Apple reportedly has five groups working on wireless charging technology

Why it matters to you

Future Apple products, including the next iPhone, may not need wires to charge.

If you purchased an Android smartphone in the past two years, chances are it supports wireless charging. Samsung, HTC, and Motorola are among the industry heavyweights that have thrown support behind so-called contact-based charging. One notable and historic holdout is Apple, but that may soon change. According to Reuters, the iPhone maker has as many as five different groups within the company working on wireless charging technologies.

The products, assuming they see the light of day, will power future iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and other devices. At least one is expected to conform to Qi, the wireless charging standard backed by a group of more than 200 companies. But it’s not clear if it will be compatible with chargers from other companies — the Apple Watch and Apple Watch Series 2 use a proprietary standard that only works with the included charging puck.

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The report lends credence to an earlier report. Japanese blog Mac Otakara suggested Apple was developing a separate, contact-based wireless charging accessory similar to what ships with the Apple Watch.

Qi’s an excellent fit for a smartphone. As Mac Rumors notes, it is capable of scaling from less than one watt of power to more than 2,000 watts. As of July, there were more than 140 smartphones, tablets, and other devices that use Qi charging. The Wireless Power Consortium, the organization which certifies new Qi implementations, includes Samsung, LG, HTC, Dell, Canon, Huawei, Sony, Qualcomm, Nokia, BlackBerry, and Sony, among others.

Plans could change, of course — Apple reportedly has as many as 10 different iPhone prototypes under development. But with production on the next-generation iPhones expected to begin as soon as next quarter, the company is likely to settle on a solution soon.

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Conflicting rumors suggest Apple will eschew Qi for true wireless power: Charging at a distance. In early February, Apple parts supplier Dialog Semiconductor inked a deal with wireless charging company Energous to manufacture the latter’s proprietary chip. Energous’ WattUp radio frequency technology can charge devices as far as 15 feet away from a transmitter, even when the receiving device being charged is in motion.

A previous report by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said Apple will use wireless charging in an upcoming iPhone in 2017 and Energous CEO Steve Rizzone hinted in the past that it partnered with “one of the largest consumer electronics companies in the world.”