The pitch has always been a simple one: Place your phone down and watch it charge automatically, without the fuss of finding an outlet or connecting a power cord. The reality of wireless charging, however, has been anything but.
Differing technologies and incompatible standards have hindered broader adoption of wireless charging. It was good enough to work in Oral-B electric toothbrushes in the early ’90’s, yet most phones still lack the ability to charge without being plugged in.
But this might be the year the feature gets its act together. Phones like the LG G6 and Samsung S7 include wireless charging. Automakers including BMW and Ford are looking for ways to more easily power their electric vehicles. But the biggest spark could come from Apple, which appears ready to commit to the technology. There are enough rumors swirling around the iPhone 8 and wireless charging that its absence would be a bitter disappointment.
“That’s the catalyst that would drive enough volume,” says Avi Greengart, an analyst at research firm GlobalData.
It’s not like people haven’t pushed wireless charging before. Nokia championed it with its flagship Lumia phones, and Google and LG added it to the Nexus 4. Those companies used inductive charging the same technology found in your electric toothbrush which requires placing the device on a charging pad in a specific position.
A newer version of wireless charging called magnetic resonance gives you a bit more freedom because you don’t have to place your phone on an exact spot. It can also charge multiple devices with different power needs, as well as charge through objects and across short distances. That’s handy if you’re looking to install a charging plate in your garage that would be a few inches below your car’s undercarriage.
Meanwhile, wireless charging company Energous is exploring radio frequencies for broadcasting power charges, similar to how Wi-fi broadcast online connectivity. Energous plans to integrate its power broadcasting capabilities into Wi-Fi routers next year. This sort of broadcasting would be ideal for low power sensors like smoke detectors or smaller devices suchas hearing aids.
But while the idea of charging something 15 feet aways sounds great, there are questions: How quickly can you actually charge something over the air? And how soon can Energous get approval from Federal Communications Commission to ensure its system is safe?
“We are quite comfortable that we have developed tech that conforms to their guidelines,’ says Energous CEO stephen Rizzone.
Iphone 8 & Wireless charging feature
Apple has a major iPhone redesign planned for 2017, with a glass body and edge-to-edge OLED display that does away with the Home button and perhaps replaces Touch ID with a new facial recognition system. The new iPhone may be sold alongside upgraded (but standard) 4.7 and 5.5-inch iPhones.
- 5.8″ OLED display
- Faster A11 processor
- Glass body
- Edge-to-edge display
- Facial Recognition, perhaps replacing Touch ID
- No Home button
- Wireless charging
- Three models – One OLED, two standard
Early iPhone 8 rumors suggested Apple was working on long-range wireless charging technology that could be implemented as soon as 2017, but more recent information and speculation suggests that instead of long-range wireless charging techniques, Apple will instead use an inductive-style wireless charging solution (similar to the Apple Watch) for the device, and Apple supplier Wistron has accidentally confirmed that wireless charging is planned for at least one iPhone model.
Apple in February joined the Wireless Power Consortium, which is committed to the open development of the Qi wireless charging standard that’s widely used in devices like the Samsung Galaxy line, and Apple has filed dozens of patents for inductive charging. Dozens of hires with expertise in wireless charging have also joined the company over the past year.
The iPhone 8 is expected to include a WPC-based Qi wireless charging solution that will be enabled through an optional accessory that will be purchased alongside the new iPhones.
Apple is said to be having issues with the software related to the wireless charging functionality, so the inductive charging accessory that will enable the feature may not ship until later in the year, perhaps alongside an iOS 11.1 update.