An article published by Bloomberg today (Friday 29th January) has caused widespread speculation that Apple are pushing ahead with the development of wireless charging technology for the iPhone. However, the focus appears to be not on charging pad-based solutions, but on solutions offering greater spatial freedom from the charger.
Ever since Samsung launched dual-mode wireless charging on their Galaxy S6 and S6 edge phones last year, all eyes have been on Apple to see whether they would also add wireless charging to the iPhone. Wireless charging is proving very popular with those who have used the technology, in fact over 90 percent of respondents in a 2015 IHS customer survey said they would choose wireless charging technology on their next handset. The market tripled in size last year compared to 2014, with more than 160 million wireless charging receivers shipped across all markets.
Just two weeks ago, IHS predicted that Apple would introduce some form of wireless charging on the iPhone 7 expected to launch in September 2016; especially since they introduced an inductive, proprietary solution on the Apple Watch.
We still expect this to be the case, but this latest rumour suggests a longer term look at much greater spatial freedom – claiming to take away the charging pad altogether. There’s already many companies out there looking at this type of technology where alignment on a charging pad wouldn’t be required. One approach is to use “loosely coupled” solutions like the AirFuel Alliance’s Rezence-specification, which allows charging over several centimetres, at any angle – for example in a charging bowl, or through a desk. Then there’s uncoupled technology, where “power like Wi-Fi” is the aim, sending low levels of power (typically less than 1 watt) across a room – Ossia, Energous and uBeam all made headlines at CES with this type of technology. It remains to be seen which option Apple could be looking at for the iPhone, regardless of whether they will go for industry-standard certified or a proprietary solution.
Loosely coupled solutions – and the Rezence-specification in particular – are expected to launch into commercial availability this year, possibly as early as the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February; however, uncoupled technology is likely to take longer to reach the mass market. At least one OEM partnership with an uncoupled technology specialist is expected to be announced this year, but commercial availability by September 2017 would definitely be the earliest expected commercial launch.
More analysis from IHS: Wireless Power Intelligence Service