Although it’s been around for almost eight years on smartphones, wireless charging hasn’t caught on with consumers.
Although the Qi wireless charging standard has been around since 2008, we had to wait seven long years for its implementation in smartphones when Samsung introduced its Galaxy S6 series of devices.
Despite the fact that the standard has been revised several times since then (the current version is 1.3) and that some manufacturers, such as Huawei or Vivo, enable wireless charging faster than others offer via cable, wireless chargers have never really taken off among consumers.
According to Strategy Analytics, as many as one billion people own a smartphone that supports wireless charging. However, the number of people who own a wireless charger is much lower – in Asian countries this figure is 49%, in North America 21%, and in Western Europe 16%. So several hundred million people own a wireless charger, so it might be crazy to say that the technology hasn’t taken off. However, owning a wireless charger and using it regularly are two different concepts, but unfortunately we do not know the numbers of active users.
So why aren’t we all using wireless chargers today, almost eight years after the first smartphone with wireless charging support? If we exclude the number of smartphones that have this option, the answer is actually very simple – charging via cable is still a more practical and faster solution.
If we look at the essence of wireless chargers, we quickly realize that this type of charging does not differ drastically from the classic method. The charger is still connected to an outlet, and depending on the wireless charger itself, positioning the device on it can take longer than simply inserting the cable into the phone’s port — a problem Apple solved with MagSafe chargers by adding magnets.
Of course, there are other issues, such as if a magnetic wireless charger isn’t used, users can’t pick up their device without interrupting charging. Here is the problem with the inefficiency of these chargers, where a huge amount of energy is wasted, that is, it is converted into heat, compared to charging via a cable, and we should not forget the impact that this type of charging has on the battery.
The batteries of our phones have three biggest enemies – time, number of charges and temperature. Regardless of what you do and whose charging advice you listen to, phone batteries will inevitably degrade over time, and this degradation will only be accelerated by the number of charge cycles and the temperature of the battery during that process, which is especially pronounced with wireless charging – Apple users who regularly use MagSafe chargers always have worse battery health than those who charge their devices via cable.
Although the EU passed a law obliging all manufacturers to use a USB-C port on their devices, this is only a temporary solution, as it is very clear in which direction smartphones are moving. First the headphone jack was removed, then Apple removed the US SIM card holder on the latest phones, followed by the removal of the jack itself and a complete transition to wireless charging, as is the case with many smartwatches. Apple already tried to speed up this process when in 2017 it announced AirPower, a wireless charger that can charge multiple devices at once, regardless of where they are placed. Unfortunately, this charger never made it to market.
If a manufacturer is in a hurry, this transition could happen as soon as tomorrow. However, the current state of wireless charging is still not at a satisfactory level, which is evident when looking at its consumer adoption. Although there are advances in technology, and some are even testing wireless charging using lasers, it is necessary to solve the biggest problems in order not to get an inferior solution to what we have today.