Samsung, Foxconn are backing cable-free phone tech – Finance


A start-up backed by Tony Fadell, one of the fathers of the Apple iPod, will today announe it is working with Samsung Electronics, Foxconn parent Hon Hai Precision Industry and others on a new way for mobile phones to transfer large amounts of data without using wires or wi-fi connections.

Chief executive Eric Almgren said his company Keyssa has raised more than US$100 million from Fadell and the venture arms of Samsung and Intel, among others. The company’s “kiss” technology allows two computing devices to be held near each other and transfer large files in just a few seconds.

The goal is to remove the need for cumbersome and bulky cable connectors inside devices like phones and laptops, which are growing ever-lighter and thinner. If Keyssa is successful, the wireless data transfer technique could eventually be available in a wide range of devices.

Keyssa announced last October, together with Intel, that it had come up with a design that could be embedded in two-in-one laptops which feature detachable touchscreens.

The alliance with Samsung and Foxconn is aimed at creating a design for mobile phones.

Shankar Chandran, head of the venture arm at Samsung Electronics, noted that the management team at Keyssa had previously developed the technology behind the HDMI standard for video connections. Samsung hopes Keyssa’s technology might become similarly widespread.

“Standards tend to get ecosystems built around them in a fairly complicated way,” Chandran said.

“What’s needed is a bunch of industry players across the value chain saying they’re going to build to that standard. And that’s really what we have.”

Conflict looms

One of the first places a wireless transfer feature could show up is the Essential Phone, the device designed by Andy Rubin, the father of the Android mobile operating system.

Essential, which has raised US$330 million in venture capital, plans to announce a launch date for its US$699 phone later this week. Playground Global, the venture fund Rubin oversees, is an investor in both Essential and Keyssa.

Essential has said its phone will feature wireless data transfer, but it is not clear where the technology has come from. Keyssa says it has filed more than 250 patents around the technology, including nearly 50 of which that have been issued in the United States.

Almgren said Keyssa met with Rubin and Essential executives several times, including at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2016, to discuss licensing Keyssa’s proprietary technology, but no agreement had been reached.

For its part, Essential said it ”considered Keyssa as a component supplier for Essential Phone and chose to proceed with a different supplier that could meet our performance specifications for the product.”