Why Isn’t Wireless Charging For Smartphones Catching On?

Wireless charging devices have been in demand but are nowhere to be seen in the market – where are they? 

3 min read
Inductive charging is available on many high-end smartphones.

When Apple unveiled its multipurpose AirPower wireless charging pad last year, it got everyone excited. Is wireless charging set to become mainstream, the way Apple changed everyone’s perception of having a notch on the screen with the iPhone X?

Sadly, it hasn’t. In fact, Apple’s AirPower hasn’t even hit the market yet, with many expecting it to launch sometime later this year. Has Apple failed in its wireless pursuit? Or is it just playing safe by holding on till the product becomes viable enough to be sold to consumers?

After all, wireless charging does get rid of all those tedious cables. iPhone users would undoubtedly find this convenient.

Don’t underestimate the psychological effect of not having to use two hands to connect a charger. It appears to be marginal, but once you start doing it, it feels really different. 
Menlo Treffers, Chairman, WPC

Treffers said this in a report on wireless charging. WPC (Wireless Power Consortium) is a consortium of companies behind Qi, the wireless charging standard.

However, the reality of wireless charging is different from what was planned. Most devices from Samsung and Nokia (with Microsoft) have failed to cut the cord completely. Wireless chargers still need to be connected to a power source. Even with the AirPower, Apple still relies on power to be transmitted via a 2.5V to 3V power adapter to the wireless charger.

Fast-charging solutions for wired adapters are available in the market, with brands like OnePlus, Motorola and Honor. But fast-charging solutions for wireless chargers haven’t come out yet.

Wireless charging in any form has been hard to come by. 
Wireless charging in any form has been hard to come by. 
(Photo Courtesy: Dell)
Manufacturers are finding it hard to integrate fast-charging standards to wireless units. Before that happens, it will be hard for phone makers to focus on wireless chargers, which is still a couple of years away.
Szymon Kopec, Product Manager, OnePlus India 

And that’s been the case with most third-party brands like Belkin and Logitech who design products for Apple. They have wireless chargers, but haven’t come up with fast-charging solutions yet.


Everything Comes at a Cost

The price of these wireless chargers or the cost of offering wireless charging capability on devices is still on the high side. So, before phone makers decide to invest heavily in this area, they need to know whether they have enough buyers looking for this feature.

A 2016 consumer survey revealed that 98 percent of people in the United States who used wireless charging would like this feature to come inbuilt in their phones. 

This assessment was done two years ago in the US, but those numbers could hold true for a market like India as well.

Apple AirPower was showcased but yet to hit the market. 
Apple AirPower was showcased but yet to hit the market. 
(Photo Courtesy: Apple)

Most wireless chargers right now cost around Rs 4,000 or more. The price of phones with this feature will also go up. Which is why the OnePlus 6, launched recently with a glass body, still doesn’t support wireless charging. Experts feel that wireless charging is going through a rapid evolution, but is not ready to go mainstream just yet.

Having said that, if Apple does manage to bring its AirPower into the market this year, the situation could change very quickly within the industry. The other challenge for manufacturers is its acceptance from the health regulators.

“These companies find it hard to get regulatory approval for a device that sends sufficient power to charge a device while still being safe for humans to use,” one expert mentioned.


What the Brands Say

Give it a couple of years, and you might see some exciting stuff happening in this space. That’s been a unanimous voice from the industry, which is doing its best to fashion a product, integrated with fast-charging technology that’ll let you go truly wireless.

“For people, they have to make a choice between convenience and daily usability. Can I rely on a wireless charger to meet my heavy day-to-day needs of a smartphone right now? I doubt it,” said a co-founder of an Indian startup.

But things are looking up. Battery sizes of phones have increased (even iPhones). There are power banks that satisfy users’ on-the-go charging needs. And fast chargers now ensure you get at least 60 percent charge in your phone within 30 minutes.

However, users will have to wait a little longer for true wireless charging to become mainstream.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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