十二月 22, 2016

A Wireless Future is Inevitable; Charging is the Next Step

Cables are definitely going out of fashion. Around the late 90s and early 2000s, essentially everything was wired. Internet, file transfer, mice and keyboards, game controllers, headphones, doorbells; for the vast majority of people, these things all needed a physical connection or it was no-go. However, the wizardry of wireless technology has been spreading fairly relentlessly and now a wired connection seems disappointingly archaic. With rumors that the iPhone 8 may ship without any ports at all it begs the question, is a portless smartphone really imminent?

Portless smartphones and a life without cables

In truth we are already most of the way there. With the removal of the audio port from several recent phones, including the iPhone 7, the reasons for connecting a cable to your device have dwindled further. Wireless headphones are becoming more and more sophisticated, whether it’s via Bluetooth 5.0 or Apple’s W1 chip. Data can also be transferred easily through wireless methods and this area of technology is only going to improve further. The primary use of the remaining port on smartphones is charging, and this is the primary barrier that has to be overcome if we want to go fully wireless.

Cableless current, portless power

Wireless charging has been heralded for years as the next big thing but the technology hasn’t matched the hype. Every year there is however, incremental improvement and slowly but surely wireless charging is starting to go places and win converts.

Survival of the fittest

One of the main problems at the moment is that there is no unified standard, and the inevitable battle to the death between the different competitors is still under way. The current big two are Qi and Rezence, although there are others trying to squeeze in. The two standards are incompatible, so a lot of people are waiting for one or the other to “win” before committing too heavily to wireless charging.

Wireless Shortcomings

However, the main barrier to widespread adoption of wireless charging has always been the extremely short range of it. The wireless charging pads that have been on the market for the past few years require the device to be within a few centimeters for charging to take place. This has few advantages over wired charging and the added disadvantage of not being able to freely use your phone as it charges. This kind of close-range charging is called inductive charging, but luckily that are other types under development.

The different ranges of wireless charging

As we can see, long range charging is currently riddled with too many flaws to make it worthwhile, but mid-range resonance charging seems very promising. It’s powerful enough to charge a laptop and has a decent range. Others have seen the potential too, and there’s a sizeable chunk of R&D money going into perfecting this technology. There are already products of this type on the market, and trade shows like CES have seen some really promising looking solutions that are not far away from going mass-market.

The Apple way

With practical wireless charging close at hand, it seems that talk of portless smartphones isn’t fanciful at all (and you just know Apple is itching to make headlines again with another bold omission!). Once wireless charging and portless phones become common, it won’t be long before the last cables start disappearing from other devices and equipment too. The future is going to be wireless, and we can’t wait.

What do you think? Will we see a portless phone in 2017? Do you think going completely wireless is a good thing or a bad thing? Let us know in the comments!

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