Posted on May 15 2017
Rumors have been swirling for the last few months that the iPhone 8 will have some kind of wireless charging feature. This would be real news, because Apple has been studiously ignoring the existence of wireless charging for the last five years, even as Samsung and Google have embraced it.
So why would Apple make the jump now? Initially, it was tied to the launch of a major improvement in wireless charging technology, led by a company called Energous. But Energous’s solution — at least the one approved by the FCC — is barely better than what’s available in Android phones today, and rumors are now suggesting that Apple is going to go with Qi, the same standard that you currently find in Android phones.
I’m here today to beg and plead with Apple not to do that. If you’re not going to blow our minds with big improvements, then don’t bother with any wireless charging at all.
To understand the problem, you need to understand the limitations on wireless charging as it currently exists. The most popular wireless charging protocol currently is Qi, developed by the Wireless Power Consortium, a group that includes every big tech company.
It relies on a coil of wire in a charger and a second one in the device being charged. When the two coils are aligned, power can be transferred from the base charger to the device via electromagnetic induction and the magic of physics.
It’s a workable solution, and these days, does technically allow lots of power (theoretically up to 1kW, enough to power a kettle), to be transferred without a wire. But it also relies on a big, clunky base station and your device being placed there without moving.
From a user perspective, it’s barely more convenient than plugging your device in with a wire. That’s why Apple has likely avoided ever including Qi in any of its devices, preferring instead to wait for a better wireless solution.
A better solution is exactly what Apple was rumored to have found for the iPhone 8. The current holy grail of wireless charging would be something that would allow a device to be used wire-free within a small radius of some kind of base station. If you had one charger next to your bed, another next to your desk and a third in your car, you’d likely never need to plug your phone in.
It’s not quite as good as the real holy grail of wireless charging — power as easily available as a cell signal — but it’s a lot more practical. Companies have shown off solutions already that transfer power via carefully-steered microwaves, and there’s an Indiegogo project right now that meets most of the requirements talked about above.
But there’s a big difference between a concept being semi-ready, and Apple being willing to ship it in a product. The company tends to avoid shipping half-baked products, moreso than its competitors, because when even something minor goes wrong, internet commentators have a field day.
It’s February, and the iPhone 8 almost certainly won’t launch until this coming September. So if rumors are starting to do the rounds now that the iPhone 8 won’t have wireless charging, I’m inclined to believe them. I have no doubt that Apple wanted wireless charging as the flagship feature on its 10th anniversary phone. But, I’m equally certain that if the technology isn’t ready yet, Apple should axe the notion altogether, rather than shipping the iPhone 8 with a band-aid Qi wireless charging tech that doesn’t make anyone happy.