Global shipments of devices capable of wireless charging will jump nearly 70 times by 2014 from the 3.5 million units expected to sell this year, anticipates supply chain research firm, iSuppli. More than 234 million such consumer devices are expected to be shipped over the next four years, including mobile phones, portable media players, digital still cameras and small mobile computers will use a wireless charger — with initial adoption coming from handsets.
While the phrase “wireless charging” paints a picture of a battery refresh completely without wires, the technology isn’t quite that advanced. A charging mat or puck — think of Powermat or the Palm Pre’s Touchstone charger — still typically needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet. And both the charging station and the device that requires a recharge need magnetic coils for the short-distance process. See our “10 Things to Know About Wireless Power” article for additional details.
The coil requirement is partially what’s prevented wireless charging from seeing mainstream adoption — with so many different device batteries on the market, it hasn’t been feasible for a mass migration from direct charging batteries. And it can take longer for a battery to be topped off using wireless charging. But iSuppli believes that device makers will look towards new standards to help improve such technology and speed up consumer acceptance of wireless solutions.
Indeed, during my own discussions with the Powermat team earlier this year, I got a first look at how the company is creating its own batteries with the aim of striking deals directly with device makers. Currently, the Powermat solution requires a special phone case to accept a wireless charge and consumers may not want a specific-function case for their iPhone or BlackBerry. But if Powermat can supply a battery to those phones so they natively support wireless power, consumers won’t need a special case. Handset makers could simply provide a wireless-capable battery in lieu of the traditional one at the point of device purchase — a move sure to drive up adoption. Even Stacey, who thinks wireless charging is useless in its current state, might adopt the technology if that happens. Ironically, she’s on a trip today and left her wired phone charger behind!
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