9to5Mac noticed today that Apple has joined the Wireless Power Consortium, which controls the Qi standard, and promptly jumped to the conclusion that the next iPhone will feature wireless charging. We’re not all that interested in iPhones around here — at least, not to cover them — but there may be both more and less here than meets the eye.
The Apple Watch uses inductive wireless charging that’s “Qi-like” but not quite Qi; the difference, we’re told by people in a position to know, is that the charging coils that the Watch uses are not quite standard Qi sizes. Apple’s joining the WPC is one possible way to get a vote that would make the Watch’s chargers part of the standard, opening it up to third parties.
What’s maybe a little odd about Apple’s embracing Qi is that the AirPods wireless earphones (which are of interest to us here) are incredibly badly suited for Qi — no large flat surfaces for induction coils — but may work just fine for resonant wireless charging of the sort that Qi rival AirFuel Alliance uses. So keep an eye out to see if Apple embraces AirFuel, too.
(In fact, AirFuel put out a statement today welcoming Apple to the world of wireless charging, forgetting that it’s already been there for a year or so already.
For the next iPhone to use Qi charging, it will have to have a perfectly flat back, like Samsung’s Galaxy S7s. As leaks and supposed prototypes get passed around, keep that in mind: a curved back and wireless charging are counter-features. You can’t have both unless you change the laws of physics.