Apple started shipping its new, long-awaited Apple Watch on Friday 24th April. As announced earlier this year, the watch is equipped with inductive charging technology and is being shipped with a wireless charger, based around Apple’s own proprietary MagSafe charging technology.
Rumours have emerged over the past few days indicating that Apple’s new smartwatch could be compatible with the Wireless Power Consortium’s (WPC) Qi wireless charging specification. With no stated position on wireless charging or the direction the next iPhone could take, what would this potential development mean?
Maybe compatible, unlikely certified
At the end of last week, AppleInsider shared a video which appears to show the Apple Watch MagSafe charger being used to charge the Moto 360 smart watch. This would suggest that Apple’s charger is Qi-compatible. Apple has not been announced as a member of the WPC or even a supporter of the Qi standard so it is unlikely they have produced a ‘certified’ Qi product (meaning it may not have been through all of the regulatory testing to ensure it works optimally with other Qi products). However, the Qi specification is an open standard meaning it is still possible for Apple to build products which are compatible to the specification. This could be the case with the Apple Watch MagSafe charger.
Although it cannot be verified if both the Moto 360 smartwatch and Magsafe wireless charger used in the video were both un-modified ‘off the shelf’ products, this could potentially be another boost for the wireless charging industry looking to increase interoperability.
Wireless charging in wearable electronics
IHS forecast that more than 20 million wireless charging receiver units will ship into the wearable electronics market this year. The bulk of those shipments are predicted to be made up of smartwatch devices – almost 80% of which are expected to be Apple Watch shipments. Although Apple has expressed reluctance to integrate wireless charging into their devices in the past, their decision to include a form of wireless charging in its smartwatch device suggests the company is starting to rethink its stance – especially after strong rival Samsung’s launch of the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge smart phones with integrated Qi- and PMA- standard charging.
With the large market share Apple holds in the smartphone market with the iPhone, any decision to adopt a wireless charging solution compatible to any of the standards could greatly influence consumer awareness and adoption of wireless charging solutions overall.
Combined with the increasing adoption of wireless charging in other big brands such as Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, IKEA’s wireless charging furniture and continued infrastructure roll-outs in the likes of Starbucks and McDonalds, the wireless charging industry is seeing great things already this year. Strong revenue growth for the market is projected to continue in coming months with 2015 expected to be a breakthrough year for wireless charging.More analysis from IHS: Wireless Power Intelligence Service