Imagine rushing out of the house one morning, finding out that you forgot to charge your phone the previous night, and being able to rest it on a small pad in your car where it begins charging. Imagine running low on power in a crowded café, laying your phone on a section of the table, and having that power replenish itself. Imagine if these possibilities were possible sooner than you might think. Imagine if you didn’t have to imagine.
There is a trend, which has grown in recent years, where companies, rather than making the next iteration of a product bigger, with more features in the name of innovation, are now more interested in scaling back and removing components in the hopes of streamlining. The idea behind this is a sound one: get rid of features that are obsolete, and use the space and resources that are freed up to make something better. Not an illogical justification by any means, but one that can certainly be controversial. Take for instance, the iPhone 7, which was the first Apple smartphone to be designed without a headphone jack . A move that had a rather mixed reception. Nilay Patel, in his article “Taking the headphone jack off phones is user-hostile and stupid,” expresses some strong opinion on the matter . So too did Greg Kumparak, in his article “Two years later, I still miss the headphone port” .
Safe to say, innovation doesn’t always set sales records or herald a new way of making devices, especially if it’s seen as innovation for innovation's sake. However, there are developments within traditional technologies that do seem to suggest that they are changing for the better. Once such technology is battery chargers and power adapters, and one such change is the development of ubiquitous wireless charging.
Wireless charging has existed as an idea for a long time, but only recently have there been major developments spurred by developing technologies. In the late 19th Century, Nikola Tesla demonstrated a way to generate and transmit electricity through a magnetic field with the use of two circuits; a transmitter and receiver .
This method allowed electricity to power appliances without the use of wires, an interesting concept that wouldn’t have a practical use until many years later. In Tesla’s day, the average person didn’t own many (if any) electronics, so there was no need for charging at all, much less wireless charging. However, now over 70 percent of Canada owns a smartphone and even that number seems to be growing all the time . So now this old concept may be stepping into the limelight.
Whether a smartphone or an electric car, Inductive charging is the name of the game. Inductive charging, is basically the same method that Tesla demonstrated one hundred years ago, albeit more compact and efficient. It requires a charging pad (transmitter), and a receiver coil in the device to be charged. The pad creates a magnetic field which the receiver converts into an electrical current that charges the battery.
If, by chance, you are one of the 70% of Canadians that own a smartphone, you probably have one made by either Apple or Samsung. Both these companies are now developing their devices with wireless charging capabilities in conformance with Qi Standard developed by an organization called theWireless Power Consortium . This standard provides specifications for the transmitter and receiver relationship mentioned earlier. It also regulates a variety of wattages for commercial use, with a minimum of 5W.
All this talk about wattages, standards, and ports is all well and good, but you probably want to know what actual advantages wireless charging can provide. Here’s just a few:
Less erosion - without a charging port, a smartphone would no longer have its inner workings exposed to oxygen and water. Thus decreasing the risk of vulnerable materials being corroded.
Less wear and tear - without the need to constantly plug and unplug a charging cable, phones and their charging pads will not be going through physical strain multiple times a day.
Qi standard - as the most popular smartphone manufacturers subscribe to the same wireless charging standard, this means charging pads will work for all brands and all iterations of a phone (provided they all subscribe to the Qi standard)
No more hunting for your charging cable or asking if someone else has the one for your brand.
Unfortunately, nothing is perfect, and with these benefits come the inevitable drawbacks.
More time consuming - wireless charging is generally slower than its cabled counterpart, especially if you’re used to Quick charging.
Less efficient - it uses more energy than a cable, and loses a fair bit of that energy through heat.
Less mobility - since you leave your phone on a charging pad, you lose the option of using it while it charges..
Rarity - while Samsung and Apple have included wireless charging capabilities in many of their newer smartphone models, as a whole, wireless charging is still dwarfed by more traditional methods. As such, going wireless at this point in its evolution is going to be taxing and pricey.
Despite its older origins, wireless charging is still somewhat in its infancy and seems to have a whole lot more growing left to do. As it matures we can expect some of the mentioned drawbacks to be resolved by wider adoption and improved technology. For instance, in early 2019, it was announced that Quick charge would now support wireless charging . There are also other standards that could allow a charge to travel much farther than usual, permitting a user to retain use of their phone while it is charging.
On and on march the tireless legs of progress, and wireless charging seems to be a technology that can go the distance. It offers substantial advantages over what we have now, and the negatives seem well on their way to being solved.
 Kastrenakes, J. (2016, September 7). The iPhone 7 has no headphone jack. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2016/9/7/12823596/apple-iphone-7-no-headphone-jack-lightning-earbuds.
 Patel, N. (2016, June 21). Taking the headphone jack off phones is user-hostile and stupid. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2016/6/21/11991302/iphone-no-headphone-jack-user-hostile-stupid.
 Kumparak, G. (2018, December 26). Two years later, I still miss the headphone port. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2018/12/25/i-still-miss-the-headphone-port/.
 Mearian, L. (2018, March 28). Wireless charging explained: What is it and how does it work? Retrieved from https://www.computerworld.com/article/3235176/wireless-charging-explained-what-is-it-and-how-does-it-work.html.
 Smartphone penetration in Canada set to top 80 percent by 2020. (2018, December 18). Retrieved from https://mtltimes.ca/Montreal/social-life/technology/smartphone-penetration-in-canada-set-to-top-80-percent-by-2020/.
 Notes, E. (0AD). Qi Wireless Charging Standard. Retrieved from https://www.electronics-notes.com/articles/equipment-items-gadgets/wireless-battery-charging/qi-wireless-charging-standard.php.
 Qualcomm Announces Quick Charge for Wireless Power and Introduces Qi Interoperability. (2019, February 25). Retrieved from https://www.qualcomm.com/news/releases/2019/02/25/qualcomm-announces-quick-charge-wireless-power-and-introduces-qi.