Powermat and PoweKiss: Wireless Charging Firms Settle Differences

Transatlantic travelers took another step closer to ditching their phone chargers this week with two major wireless charging firms announcing they’ll use a common standard.

The deal is between American firm Powermat and Finland-based PowerKiss, which are among the leading providers in North America and Europe respectively.

Both firms use a form of inductive charging in which two devices each have an induction coil. One passes on electricity in the form of an electromagnetic field, while the other then converts this field back into a charge for a battery. With phone charging this involves a mat connected to a power supply, with the phone being placed on the mat.

A few phones have a built-in device for using wireless charging, but for the most part users put their phone in a special charging cover before placing it on the mat or, with the PowerKiss set-up, insert a special device into their phone (pictured).

There are two main, incompatible, technologies for such charging, known as PMA (for Power Matters Alliance) and Qi. Powermat uses PMA while until now PowerKiss had used Qi. That meant many US customers would have been unable to use wireless charging when visiting Europe.

The two firms have now agreed to merge and PowerKiss will switch its systems to use PMA. That creates a network of 1,500 charging points in the US and 1,000 charging points in Europe.

It doesn’t completely kill off Qi, which remains the preferred standard of some of the major phone manufacturers.

Sean Hollister of the Verge has an interesting take. He believes Starbucks’ decision to not only trial PMA but to join the Alliance’s board may be the step that helps persuade those on the fence to get behind that system as the standard.

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