Wireless power for mobile phones has been a long time coming. Especially outside the US, where it got a head start thanks to telecoms operators backing it in the early days. Things have certainly picked up in the past year, with Samsung getting off the fence and including it as a standard, rather than an option in its latest Galaxy S6/Edge and Note 5 phones.
But that's just a start, Samsung is leading the way, but 2016 will be the year that wireless charging really becomes established. This time next year there won't be any smartphones shipping without wireless charging. Except perhaps Apple, but I'd be surprised if Apple let the Android market get too far ahead of it. But aside from Apple, I can confidently predict that by the end of 2016, not just Samsung, but all Android smartphone manufacturers will include wireless charging as standard.
Additionally, wireless products that will become available over the next six months will be more powerful, and versatile, offering an even better user experience. You'll see even more charging stations at coffee shops, restaurants and bars. Keeping a smartphone charged will just be easier all round.
Currently there's still a fair bit of confusion among people about wireless charging, it's not a well known technology to the average consumer. That's not so much the case in the US, where Samsung is currently running a huge advertising campaign to highlight it. But outside the US, uptake of wireless is at least a year behind the curve.
The future of wireless charging: a battle for market dominance?
Adding to the potential confusion is the perception that there are competing technologies, battling for the market, and that's half true. It's true in the sense that there is Qi charging, and there is another technology called AirFuel. But whether they are competing technologies is debateable.
As a manufacturer of products with wireless charging in them, I have no skin in the game. TYLT would be happy to build products with whichever technology becomes dominant. But the fact is, the fight for wireless charging dominance is not such a battle as you might think. Despite the media coverage it's getting.
Currently Qi has many years of experience, and hundreds of products already available. AirFuel on the other hand, is yet to make it to market in any big way. It will of course, but it's got a lot of ground to make up, to match the dominance of Qi. It has some strong backers, so I don't doubt that it will make headway in the market eventually. But for now, Qi is the technology adopted by car manufacturers and even McDonald's UK.
The future of wireless charging: Limitations no more
2016 will be the year in which the updated Qi standard will be seen in new products. The new 1.2 version of Qi mean the low power found in first generation chargers will soon triple to 15w. Meaning the charging time for a smartphone will drop from three hours to just 80 minutes.
The original Qi products will still be compatible, but will only operate at the original speed. The original products also required fairly precise placement of the phone for the charge to work, but multi-coil technology now allows some freedom of position.
Backwards compatibility is also a very important feature, as there are already lots of Qi enabled devices out there. That's why phone manufacturers are very likely to stick to the Qi charging standard with new devices, some may add AirFuel as well, but Qi is guaranteed.
As a long time proponent of wireless charging, I'm thrilled to see the technology so close to being universal. It's going to make people's lives just that little bit better. Running low on phone power will no longer cause panic, with so many charging options.
There will be less messing with cables. Small things I know. But resolving a small problem for millions of people is still a worthwhile endeavour. It is also the first step in creating a completely waterproof phone and a safe compartment where a phone can connect to your car and be charged, all while linking you to your phone safely.
Kannyn MacRae is the VP of Product Management at TYLT.
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