The future is wireless

The future is wireless

Plugging in your phone is so 2015. The future of charging is wireless, if the markets are any indication.

The next big thing?

According to a report by insight provider IHS, the market for devices that can be charged wirelessly grew more than 160 per cent in 2015. Total annual shipments of such devices is likely to be in the billions by 2025. In the shorter term, IHS predicts that 10 per cent of smartphones shipped in 2016 will be capable of wireless charging.

It’s not hard to see why the new technology is an attractive proposition. No mislaying or fiddling about with cables. No getting the micro USB the wrong way up (for non-iPhone users anyway). Instead, simply pop your phone down on a pad, and an electromagnetic field transfers energy between the two, charging the battery.

The downside

There are some drawbacks. Wireless charging isn’t as efficient, so charging takes longer than with a regular cable. There are also concerns that the pads where you lay your phone can get very hot during use. In addition, not all wireless chargers are compatible with all devices…

As befits a technology in its infancy, wireless charging isn’t yet standardised. A group of manufacturers, the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), has developed a standard technology, Qi, which is fairly well known. However, there’s something of a Betamax/VHS battle going on between WPC and another group of companies, the AirFuel Alliance, which is trying to get an alternative standard adopted industry-wide. Apple hasn’t yet joined the wireless charging party – although there are rumours the forthcoming iPhone7 may have the capability. This could add a third standard to the mix.

Buying a wireless charger

If you have a fairly new Android smartphone, however, the chances are that you’ll be able to buy a wireless charging device for it. Make sure you check which technology your phone uses – although some manufacturers, including Samsung, are ensuring that their devices are compatible with both prevalent formats.

There’s plenty on the market for under £10. You can get chargers as pads, stands and in-car designs. You can even buy one that looks like Captain America’s shield, while IKEA sells wireless charging furnishings – lamps and bedside tables.

Soon, those white cables trailing across your desk and bedside table will be as redundant as the Nokia brick at the back of your kitchen drawer. A wireless charger won’t generally charge your phone as fast as a cable, but if your phone usually just sits on your desk when you’re at your computer, you might as well pop it on one of these and let it power up.

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