Wireless charging finally connects with the consumer. Or has it?

23-05-2016 |   |  By Paul Whytock

Wireless power transmission was first tried by inventor Nikola Tesla in the early 1900s and if recent reports from industry analysts are correct it now seems that consumers are finally buying into the technology in significant numbers.

But are they? When it comes to the wireless charging of mobile phones it is not an entirely wireless process. Admittedly there is no wire between the charging pad and the mobile phone but they do have a wire that plugs into a power source. This is not really how wireless technology is perceived today, given examples like WiFi and Bluetooth.

But more on that later. Let's take a look at what the analysts are saying.

A recent research report, "Wireless Power Transmission Market by Technology, suggests the wireless power market could be worth a substantial €14billion by the end of this decade. It says the factors driving the wireless power market include an increasing consumer preference towards wireless connectivity, the fact nearly all of us need to charge battery-enabled devices and the ability of wireless power technology to charge multiple devices at a time.

However, there are reports that directly contradict the perceived benefits of wireless phone charging. Fundamentally it is quicker and more efficient to use a wired charger. In some cases industry test have shown that it takes twice as long to charge a phone wirelessly. Then there is the question of heat generation which is negative factor with wireless charging because mobile phone batteries don't like heat.

But those negative factors don't necessarily mean that consumers are turning their backs on wireless phone charging.

American analysts IHS reckon that consumer awareness of wireless charging doubled to 76% in the United States, United Kingdom and China in the past 12 months.

Back In 2014 only 36% of consumers said they had heard of wireless charging technology.

IHS says that shipments of wireless power receivers in mobile phone handsets are expected to exceed 120 million units in 2015. In the wearable electronics market, shipments of wireless charging receivers are expected to rise to more than 20 million units in 2015.

Consumer awareness is also being driven by some retail outlets. Starbucks and McDonalds plan to introduce wireless charging stations in their premises. This is significant because half of consumers who have used wireless charging have done so in a public place.

However, only 20% of consumers are actually using wireless charging. This was the findings of the IHS Wireless Charging Consumer Insights Report. Most current users are using wireless charging to supplement wired charging, rather than as their primary charging method.

But what about the wireless charging technologies available that are driving the technology and ultimately consumer acceptance?

By far the oldest is induction technology which is being used in many applications such as smart phones, wearable electronics, consumer electronics devices and industrial equipment. It's a proven and practical option and because many phone makers integrate it into their phones IHS says it accounts for the major market share in the wireless power transmission market.

The phone manufacturers like the idea of integrating wireless power capability into their products because it provides the convenience and user-friendly operations that consumers want.

There is no doubt it is the mobile phone sector that is pushing the take-up of wireless charging technology by consumers, with the Asia Pacific region being particularly influential.

But there are still technical improvements that have to be achieved to make it the technology of choice when it comes to phone charging.

Prime among these are an increase in charging speed, which to some extent lies with the phone manufacturers and receiver chip power capability, and a pricing structure which consumers will accept.


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By Paul Whytock

Paul Whytock is European Editor for Electropages. He has reported extensively on the electronics industry in Europe, the United States and the Far East for over twenty years. Prior to entering journalism he worked as a design engineer with Ford Motor Company at locations in England, Germany, Holland and Belgium.

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