To understand the impending popularity of this feature, look at the science behind wireless charging, it’s applications so far, and where it can lead the mobile industry in the future.
Over the last few years one of the biggest advances in mobile technology has been the introduction of wireless charging. Although this technology isn’t new to the market, it also hasn’t gained widespread popularity. However the with announcement of the IPhone X, IPhone 8 and IPhone 8 Plus, it emerged the devices would come with wireless charging capabilities. Will the Apple release push the wireless charging technologies into global usage?
Wireless charging by definition means to transfer power without connecting the various components. When applied to smartphone technologies, it means being able to transfer power without the need of cables or wires. It requires a transmitting pad, or surface, and a receiver – which can either be within an attachable case, or purpose built into the phone itself.
The science behind wireless power transferring is founded on the process of inductive charging. When an electrical current passes through two coils and creates an electromagnetic field, it can be harnessed as a source of power. When a receiver comes into contact, or is in range of the electromagnetic field, it is able to create an electrical current within the device.
The conversion of alternating current (AC) supply into direct current (DC) charges the battery of the smart phone that is touching the transmitting source. Bridge rectifiers enable this process.
Bridge rectifiers are conductors that convert AC to DC, so play a large part in the build of these devices and technologies. Rumors about the addition of wireless charging to Apple products started because the sales of the conductors had dramatically increased. Bridge rectifiers are widely available online from suppliers like RS Components. Tracking the online sales and knowing the process relies on these conductors meant that experts were able to speculate that the increased popularity of bridge rectifiers signaled developments in wireless charging technology.
Wireless charging isn’t a new technology. For the last few years it’s been used for many applications beyond the smartphone – including electric toothbrushes!
One of the reasons the pursuit of wireless charging for smartphones became so important, was down to companies wanting to use the offer of public charging to their benefit.
ComputerWeekly wrote in 2013, ‘if you make wireless power available like Wi-Fi, with lots of free charging surfaces scattered around cafes, public transport, libraries and offices, it becomes feasible to keep things going indefinitely while you’re out and about. The dead mobile becomes history. The restaurant keeps you there for an extra half an hour while your mobile – and you – top up for the journey home and, in turn, the handset manufacturer has a much more flexible device.’
As smartphones, such as Nokia and Samsung, started to announce models that were able to utilise the wireless feature, companies took notice. Now, Starbucks, McDonlads and various other global brands are starting to roll out public access to charging mats, in a bid to keep customers in for a little while longer.
Although users have been able to buy additional covers or add-ons to make their own wireless charging feature, as of September 2017 Apple products will finally have this capability in-built.
Apple will launch a charging device that will be able to charge the IPhone, Apple Watch and AirPod earphones simultaneously. The charging mat will comply with inductive charging industry standards, also known as Qi standards. Although the Apple mat will not be available until 2018, the conductor built in the device means they will work with existing charging mats.
With this feature becoming the new standard, what does this mean for the future of wireless charging?
Patents from large electronic and tech companies suggest the next step is long-range wireless charging. However, there has been no official releases or announcements to confirm that this is possible, yet.
PC Mag looked at some of the obstacles that may slow the development of this technology – reporting on electrical engineering expert Matthew Reynolds of the University of Washington.
“There is an enormous pent-up consumer demand for a long-range wireless charging technology which would enable devices such as smartphones, tablets, fitness bands, and health sensors to operate continuously without having to be plugged in or placed on a charging mat every day,” says Reynolds, associate professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington.
“But long-range wireless charging has been held back by safety, efficiency, and cost.”
With wireless charging fast becoming the norm across various technology fields, it is only a matter of time until the long-range charging becomes standard too. Perhaps, in the not-so-distant future we will begin to see a world free of wires and cables.