Apple and Samsung could both be planning to introduce wireless charging to their smartphones this year, with the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S4 both expected to adopt the technology, according to reports.
Digitimes on Friday reported that Apple and Samsung are planning to follow Nokia, LG and HTC's lead and launch new handset models with the ability to charge wirelessly in 2013.
According to Digitimes' sources: "Samsung is expected to adopt Qi wireless charging technology run by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) for its next flagship model, the Galaxy S4."
Those sources said that the Samsung Galaxy S4 will require a "replacement back cover" at an additional cost in order to charge wirelessly via a charging pad, rather than having wireless charging capability built-in to the device.
As for the iPhone, the sources suggested that Apple has developed wireless charging technology internally ready to introduce it to future generations of its smartphone. They said that it is currently unclear whether Apple's iPhone 6 will have built-in wireless charging or whether it will require an attachment like the Samsung Galaxy S4 is rumoured to have.
However, as noted by 9to5Mac, Apple would need to make significant alterations to the design of the iPhone in order to accommodate wireless charging capabilities into the device. With the iPhone 6, or iPhone 5S, expected to have minimal design changes, as has been the case with Apple's traditional 'S' models (the iPhone 4S has the same external design as the iPhone 4, for example), it's unlikely that the company will embed wireless charging components into the handset.
There are already third-party accessories available to bring Qi wireless charging to the iPhone, such as the Maxell Air Voltage, which is also available for the iPad, and the Energizer Qi Inductive range. That said, Apple could be thinking about introducing its own accessory with its next iPhone that's similar to the third-party wireless charging offerings.
Apple isn't keen on the idea of extra accessories and a charging mat, though, as expressed by the company's senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller during an interview following the iPhone 5's launch. When asked why the new iPhone doesn't have wireless charging capabilities Schiller said: "Having to create another device you have to plug into the wall is actually, for most situations, more complicated."
But in November, the US Patent Office published an Apple patent application that covers technology that would allow mobile devices to charge wirelessly from a wireless power supply through the use of near field magnetic resonance (NFMR) power transmission.
The technology described in the patent would eliminate the need for accessories and charging mats. The potential charging system would charge every device within a virtual charging area simultaneously, without the use of a charging mat or wires. In order to do so, however, consumers would require a next-generation iMac and upgraded peripherals that are capable of charging this way, so it's unlikely that we will see this patent put to use in new Apple products this year.
Apple has several other wireless charging patents under its belt, but most of these require the additional device that Schiller said would cause the charging method to become more complicated.