Apple and the wireless industry invite you aboard Qi2

If you blinked during the prelude to Thanksgiving 2023, you might not have noticed the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) announcement that the first wireless chargers to support Qi v.2.0 (and Apple’s MagSafe) are about to ship.

This matters to Apple watchers because many of the first products to appear will be compatible with Apple’s iPhone 15, as these are the first Qi2-certified smartphones. This should also be good news for busy mobile professionals who keep their iPhone on a wireless charging pad when at their desk.

That’s because Qi 2.0 includes support for Magnetic Power Profile (MPP), which is based on Apple’s MagSafe technology. It says that devices used with a compatible charger will clip magnetically into place when connected and means power will be distributed more efficiently.

Maybe one day for Android?

Android users needn’t be upset — the standard is open to Android manufacturers and is likely to appear in some of their devices eventually. Who knows? One day you might even use a Pixel with a little Apple inside. (I wonder what Steve Jobs would have said about that.)

“These certified Qi2 chargers provide smoother, faster charging that is more energy efficient, and offers wide interoperability,” explained WPC Executive Director Paul Struhsaker. “Plus, Qi2’s magnetic attachment means consumers will no longer have to fuss in trying to adjust the positioning of their devices to ensure perfect alignment between phone and charger.”

What does Qi2 do?

Because it uses MagSafe-derived technology, Qi2 can charge faster and more consistently than previous wireless charging standards. It’s also more efficient and creates less heat (wasting less power), because the magnets ensure the charging coils in both the device and the charger are better aligned.

To put this into perspective, right now when you use a Qi charger your iPhone will draw around 7.5 watts — unless you use a more expensive MagSafe-certified charger. With Qi2 you’ll reach 15 watts, which makes for faster charging, and means you’ll waste less energy. 

There are actually two Qi2 profiles within the standard: The more exciting MagSafe-based MPP, which is branded with the Qi2 logo; and an enhancement to the existing wireless charging Extended Power Profile (EPP) that does not include magnets but complies with Qi 2.0. Those latter devices will continue to be branded with the existing Qi logo.

So, if you want the magnets, seek out devices that have Qi2 branding. But users should also see improvements across all newly released Qi-branded devices, just check the small print on the box or review the WPC’s certification list.

Who has climbed aboard the Qi2?

Apple joined the WPC in 2017. At that time, it was still working on the long delayed and then cancelled AirPower charging project, which was meant to charge multiple devices. It’s possible some of the work it did on that product has also been shared with WPC, but that’s not strictly relevant to news of Qi2.

Apple subsequently agreed to share MagSafe tech with WPC. That’s now been integrated within Qi2. The WPC claims the first 100 charging systems to support this are in its labs for certification within the standard.

First out of the gate manufacturers of these Qi2 devices consist of the big names in smartphone accessories, including Belkin, Mophie, Anker, and others. Certification usually takes around a week; you can check compatibility here.

Why it matters

For Apple, it means the company has seeded the market with a technology it trusts to charge its own devices. In the short term, that’s a convenience for iPhone 15 users, but this could matter more further down the line. After all, if Apple truly hopes to sell devices that don’t require charging cables (take that, EU!), then it must also ensure that charging points for those devices are plentiful.

Seeding the market with a cross-platform solution such as MPP/MagSafe within Qi2 does that. It also implies that you shouldn’t be too optimistic for a cable-free iPhone — we need to see some of these systems in the wild before that can easily happen. In any case, Apple has never claimed this is its plan, so keep that tiny beat in your optimistic heart on ice.

That’s Apple, and the opportunity to dispense with cables also exists for others in the consumer electronics industry. But for accessory manufacturers, it’s a big business.

WPC claims the global wireless charging market will exceed 1 billion devices this year. Sundry reports from various analysts predict the global wireless charging market will reach $129 billion in value by 2030, in part through increased deployment in vehicle charging systems.

Back to the future

That implementation of wireless charging in new product families is perhaps the most important thing about Qi2.

The WPC says it expects the introduction of Qi2 devices will open the market up for new types of accessories that couldn’t be charged wirelessly before. Given the nature of its membership (pretty much everyone), when WPC says something like that, it’s probably going to happen.

In the shorter term, accessory makers do seem to be looking at one device in particular with a little interest. “The magnetic locking feature will support new product form factors, like an AR/VR headset. It will also support new types of accessories that magnetically attach to the back of the phone, like an extra battery,” said Belkin.

One can’t help but speculate what device the company might be thinking about….

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Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.


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