Those stainless steel accents on the side of your smartphone look pretty spiffy, and the metal back certainly feels more high-end than phones made out of plastic. But they also make it very difficult to wirelessly charge your smartphone.
Qualcomm wants to change that. Its Qualcomm Technologies subsidiary announced this week that it's come up with a way to wireless charge devices encased in metal, which could include the next iPhone. The WiPower technology from Qualcomm works with the Rezence wireless power charging standard that Qualcomm is pushing through the Alliance for Wireless Power.
WiPower uses near-field magnetic resonance technology. According to Qualcomm, that allows it to handle a wider range of devices that don't need to be precisely aligned on a charging mat in order to work. The technology is also capable of charging multiple devices at once.
There's a reason Qualcomm is trumpeting the ability to wireless charge phones with metal frames. "Today, more device manufacturers are choosing to utilize metal alloys in their product designs to provide greater structural support and, of course, aesthetics," said Steve Pazol, Qualcomm's general manager of wireless charging, in a statement accompanying the WiPower announcement.
Or to put it another way, more phone makers are going metal. Flagship phones from HTC and Apple have had metal designs for years. Samsung followed suit earlier this year, ringing the Galaxy S6 with aluminum. Likewise, the newly announced OnePlus 2 replaces a plastic frame for one made out of an aluminum-magnesium alloy. More phones incorporating metal into their designs means a greater need for charging technologies that work with those devices.
Qualcomm says it's making the technique for designing devices that can charge through a metal back cover available to WiPower licensees.
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Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.