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Summary:

General Motors expects to offer wireless smartphone charging mats in some new 2014 vehicles. Before you step on the gas pedal with excitement, know that GM chose Powermat’s technology over the Qi standard, which more phones natively support.

Powermat1

General Motors is including a wireless smartphone charging pad in some 2014 vehicle models, according to Bloomberg. There aren’t any specifics on the exact car models that will get the feature, but there is a key detail on the technology being used: GM chose to use a solution from Powermat Technologies Ltd.

If you dig into Powermat as a company, this won’t surprise: GM Ventures an investor in the company, which has offered wireless charging mats and required smartphone case accessories for several years now. Why are the cases required? Because to date, smartphone makers that include wireless charging in their handsets have generally used a different standard called Qi.

That means in order to use the wireless charging mat in a GM vehicle, you’ll have to hope your favorite handset maker switches from Qi to Powermat technology, or you’ll need to buy a case for your phone to make it charge wirelessly in your new vehicle.

Which phones support Qi and are incompatible with Powermat’s technology? Here’s a partial list: Nokia’s Lumia 810, 820, 822, 920, and 928; Samsung’s Galaxy S 3 and Galaxy S 4; Verizon’s LG G2; Google’s Nexus 4 phone and new Nexus 7 tablet. Apple’s iPhone doesn’t yet include wireless charging natively, so Powermat makes a case for the device that adds the feature.

Powermat for iPhone

It’s likely that some new smartphones actually will support Powermat: AT&T is another supporter of the company and has said to expect some Powermat-compatible handsets this year. Verizon has backed the Qi wireless power standard.

Both standards do the same thing, so it makes no sense to suggest one is better than the other. It’s a good suggestion, however, to have one single standard so consumers don’t have to upgrade their smartphone or buy an add-on accessory to recharge it in their new car. Or in Starbucks for that matter.

  1. Wireless charging shouldn’t be built into the device, but into cases so it’s less costly to deal with this crap.

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    1. You want thicker devices because of add on cases and you want to pay for them? I don’t.

      If there was one standard, we wouldn’t need cases and the costs would be included in the device. See Nexus 4 and Nexus 7, for example — you’re not paying extra for the wireless charging that’s built in. ;)

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      1. I’m not yet sold on wireless charging in general, so I’d rather not pay for it at all.

        Using this GM application as an example, assuming somehow that the wireless charging would work when your phone is in position to use it while driving (doubtful), would it charge at a rate that would keep pace with the power demands of the screen, GPS and BT wireless streaming to your audio system? From what I’ve heard, that’s also doubtful.

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        1. Agreed. Wireless charging has so many downsides, yet all we ever hear about it is “Gee, look! No wires!” Slower charging, incompatible standards… And also, in a car is the one place that I CERTAINLY want my phone strapped down to something. I don’t want it gently resting on a “mat”, especially since I’d actually like to use the screen for GPS and music while I’m driving. If I’m putting it in a cradle, whats a wire at that point?

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          1. I’ve been using “wireless” Qi charging on my Nexus 4 for two months now. It is an absolutely indispensable feature that I will not be able to live without in the future. The silly act of plugging the USB cable into my phone was annoying enough that I didn’t do it very often. I was habitually running out the door with 10% battery. But the wireless charger has really changed my habits. I typically have 60% to 100% on my battery at all times.

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      2. If the wireless tech is in the device rather than the case, then won’t the device be thicker, rather than the case? Sure I guess if it’s built right in, it might be a bit more efficiently designed, but you don’t get something for nothing: the device will get thinking with wireless tech built-in.

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  2. Thank you Kevin for doing some homework. There are over 300 Qi certified products and how many Powermat? http://www.wirelesspowerconsortium.com/products/
    As for add ons for iPhones, there are plenty of Qi options as well. To make this technology cheaper and widespread, interoperability is the key. Qi standard does this.
    And very well.

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  3. Hey

    You are missing the big picture …

    The Wireless Power from PMA is totally different, and totally disruptive.
    Its the only carrier grade wireless power service.

    The Qi is just an expensive replacement for your old “good enough micro USB charger”.
    Just imagine a total new power schema and architecture on mobile devices, device makers may even be able to drop entirely the embedded battery and switch to a super capacitor.
    Its doing to charging what the cloud did to computing…

    This is why it was selected strategically by so many partners.

    Disclaimer, Im a board member at the PMA

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