ManyÂ Android phones, like Samsung’s Galaxy S7, have some form of built-in wireless charging. But the only way to charge an iPhone remains through an old-fashioned cord.
There’s a growing amount of evidence that this will change soon, however.
Bloomberg reported in January that Apple has been working on a wireless-charging technology with partners that would allow its devices to siphon power from “further away from than the charging mats used with current smartphones.”
A Morgan Stanley analyst note from February saysÂ the same thing: It expectsÂ wireless charging to be added to the iPhone in the next year or two, based on industry experts.
Apple has filed a few patents describing wireless charging, and The Wall Street Journal reported that it was looking into “a new way ofÂ charging” back in 2012.Â Given Apple’s tepid approach to wireless charging so far, it’s unlikely that Apple is working on implementing the same tech that’s currently on the market.
All signsÂ point to one partner: Energous, a publicly traded company that’s firmly in its R&D phase at the moment. It’s come up with aÂ system called WattUp that enables smartphones and other small gadgets to chargeÂ from as far as 15 feet awayÂ from a wireless transmitter.
Here’s why so many people think Energous’s wireless charging system is going to end up in Apple products:
Energous CEO keeps alludingÂ to a ‘key strategic partner’ that sounds a lot like Apple
In early 2015, Energous said that it had signed a deal with “one of the top five consumer electronics companies in the world.” That narrows the possibilityÂ down to only a few companies: Apple, Samsung, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and Hitachi.Â
During a conference call on Thursday, Energous’ relationship with its “key strategic partner” kept coming up.Â
“The whole relationship and the internal development are really shrouded in secrecy. Theyâ€™re compartmentalized even within our key strategic partner,” Stephen Rizzone said. “There is an element of secrecy to them and so we really just can’t speak to any component or any specific as it relates to the milestone or development.”
But Rizzone did confirm that Energous continues to hit milestones for its No.Â 1 customer. “One path is toÂ actively support our key strategic partner as the adoption process moves to their organization,” Rizzone said. He believes Energous tech will be in consumer hands “late this year” or “early next year.”
Also key: Whoever Energous is working for is going to help shepherd the company through the tricky FCC approval process.Â Apple’s compliance team shepherds hundreds of products through the FCC.Â
It’s the only long-range wireless-charging technology ready to ship
Apple and Energous are on the same standards group for designing wireless charging tests
EnergousDisruptive Tech Research analyst Louis BaseneseÂ said in a research note that a compliance manager at Apple, Michael O’Dwyer, is on a standards committee to develop standard ways to “test wireless power transfer products.”
AsÂ Basenese says, it’s unlikely that Apple would be on such a committee unless it saw a scenario in which it would have to test a wireless-charging product it makes.
And guess who else is on that committee? Energous’ director of regulatory compliance.Â
Additionally, an analysis of LinkedIn profiles finds multiple engineers who have moved from battery development at Apple to roles at Energous â€” one of whom wrote that she “specialized in major accounts.”Â
If Energous is Apple’s wireless-charging partner, it just gave a few major hints about when you can expect the technology to hit the market. It’s sticking to its “late 2016” timeline for its technologyÂ to make it into consumer products, but it’s the “mid-size and the full sized transmitters” that its key strategic partner is interested in.
The “mini” transmitter is geared toward wearables and other smaller devices, according to Rizzone.Â
“They are more complex. They are going to take longer to both integrate into the products of our key strategic partners,” Rizzone explained.
So while the evidence is stacking up that Apple may be working on wireless-charging technology, it probably won’t be ready in time for the iPhone 7 that’s expected to come out late this year.Â