The mobile phone industry has had an on-/off relationship with wireless technology over the last few years. This has resulted in the industry jumping between it being part of the specification of the phone to add-on accessory and then back again. With the latest smartphones heading over to wireless tech and all the benefits it brings, the world is now fully turned on to wireless charging as both the present and future way of charging a phone. The latest Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy and Huawei phones have led the way, followed by Apple. This is definitely here to stay.
One of the battles that has stalled the universal introduction of wireless charging was the standard used. That battle might be over. The Qi standard is the method of wireless charging that has been adopted by the mobile phone companies. It is responsible for around 90% of all wireless charging products at this moment in time. This has stopped the market from becoming fragmented. Manufacturers know where they stand in terms of wireless charging, so they can go ahead with confidence and make products that can be charged wirelessly.
Joining Around A Standard
There were years of wrangling, as you might expect with any emerging technology. The money to be made with this is huge, so the major players were looking to corner the market. But that caused indecision for manufacturers and subsequently consumers.
Once Samsung and Apple committed to Qi technology, it was inevitable that this would be the way forward. Qi wireless charging products are becoming more prevalent. WPC have been working for a number of years to develop an industry standard so we can all move forward together.
How The Tech Works
Even before the adoption of the technology by the big players in the smartphone market, Qi had a high profile in the industry. The charging device is based on inductive charging technology. This is short range and as a result can be quite fastidious.
Inductive tech uses tightly wound coils that give off a slightly ‘off-resonance’ frequency, which makes the transfer of charge efficient. This is a really effective method to transfer power, but it leads to a high chance of coil misalignment. In layman’s terms, the device and the charger need to be close to each other. Typically, devices need to be no more than 45mm away. So, the pipedream of charging your smartphone no matter where it is are some distance in the future.
The next step for any wireless charging kit to work is to manage the transmission frequencies and connection protocols. These ‘communicate’ with the device and control the management of power.
Qi charging supports power of up to 15W, which is what has been used by the majority of smartphones since they came into existence.
Resonance technology as an alternative that has been developed by certain manufacturers but has yet to make its way into any smartphones.
One of the advantages of resonant power is that is can function at a larger distance than inductive tech. You can widen the gap from 45mm to a few inches. While still using coils to produce magnetic fields, it tunes the pitch of oscillation between the charger and the device. This eliminates the finicky nature of inductive charging and can be used to charge multiple devices at the same time. This is because it doesn’t matter the orientation of the magnetic field of the device.
The Devices Themselves
It is all well and good developing wireless charging technology, but manufacturers need devices that work in the same way. Apple have put all of their eggs in one basket with the adoption of Qi tech in their devices. And some of the other major players have devices that can be used with Qi tech and PMA too. PMA is the alternative and you will find smartphones from the likes of Samsung and LG can be used with both Qi and PMA. And recently, the trend has been unifying into the Qi-standard.
As wireless charging becomes more and more widespread, we will see more the way forward. Smartphones are the first products to be built with wireless charging in mind. But we can all see a future where other devices are charged in the same way.
2020 And The Future
Radio wave technology is something that is being explored as we speak. The idea behind this tech is that devices can be charged at a greater distance. Think about charging your mobile phone while you are using it.
Early suggestions say that this will be able to charge devices at a range of up to 4 meters, with 1.5 watts of power. Now this isn’t the quick charge we are used to but if it is constantly charging then you don’t need the same level of power. But its technological improvements are needed along with human-harmful verification before it becomes generalization.
Why Choose Wireless?
We have become so accustomed to wired charging. Simply plugging in by the side of the bed to deliver a charge that should last all day is part of modern life for many. We haven’t gone over wholesale to wireless charging yet. But a major factor in that is the way the tech has been developed. As there is so much money at stake, it has been difficult to build a consensus.
Those days of battling for supremacy look like they are coming to a close. When the industry gets behind it, manufacturers and consumers can follow. Wireless charging has so many benefits over wired charging that it looks like the future will be wireless. Just when that future arrives is all that is to be decided.