The battle between the Qi wireless charging standard and Qualcomm's WiPower has entered a new stage, with Qualcomm's rival Texas Instruments announcing a new receiver IC that allows manufacturers to pack the technology into even smaller devices.
The Texas Instruments bq51013 receiver bundles wireless power control and voltage conditioning into an WCSP packaged integrated circuit measuring just 1.9mm by 3mm. When combined with a receiver coil, the chip provides everything required to integrate Qi-compliant wireless charging into any device.
The ultra-small design of the chip, which measures in at an 80 per cent reduction in package size over the company's first-generation products, does mean that there have been one or two sacrifices made along the way - primarily in charging current. An upper limit of 5W with a claimed 93 per cent efficiency means that the bq51013 isn't suitable for high-power devices such as tablets - but its a chip more suited for use in small form factors like smartphones and Bluetooth headsets anyway.
The new chip bridges one of the gaps that Qualcomm claims exists between implementations of the Qi standard, adopted by Texas Instruments and others in the industry, and its own upcoming WiPower. Qualcomm's biggest argument for WiPower adoption, the ability for the company to integrate the technology onto a single-chip solution that includes CPU, GPU, communications, and WiPower, still remains - at least until Texas Instruments builds the Qi technology into its popular range of ARM-based system-on-chip designs.
Wireless charging is considered to be a major growth area for business. Earlier this month, Qualcomm's Mark Hunsicker explained to thinq_ that vehicle manufacturers are looking to adopt the technology - and it's a battle between WiPower and Qi to be the first to meet the industry's requirements. "Virtually every major automobile vendor in the world has a roadmap to putting wireless power into their vehicles," Hunsicker claimed. "We've been working with the CE4A out of Europe - the consumer electronics industry force for automobiles - and there is tremendous interest [in wireless charging.]"
While Texas Instruments is almost certainly pursuing the same avenues, it's concentrating on more traditional implementations for its latest creation. "Smartphone and consumer electronics manufacturers are demanding wireless power, and TI is well positioned to help our customers drive widespread adoption of this technology that makes life easier for people on the go to charge their devices," claimed Sami Kiriaki, senior vice president at TI's Power Management division. "Designers can use the bq51013 to quickly integrate wireless power into existing and new applications with minimal impact to overall solution size."
The bq51013 wireless power receiver is in mass production now, with Texas Instruments pricing the chip at $3.50 each in 1,000-unit volumes - meaning it will still be quite some time before wireless charging appears in any but the most expensive of smartphones.