For the past few years we have consistently heard about how wireless charging is going to take over - how within a few years we will forget what charging cords even look, and that our entire charging experience will be completely streamlined. In fact, general awareness of wireless charging has significantly increased. According to IHS Inc., consumer awareness of wireless charging technology doubled in 2015, with the majority of consumers in the United States, United Kingdom, and China already well-familiar with the technology.
Despite this rapid growth in overall awareness, widespread wireless charging adoption has surprisingly been stalling. The study reveals that while leading brands, such as Apple and Samsung, have committed to wireless charging, only 16% of consumers are actually using this technology on a daily basis. In fact, most of the public currently only uses wireless charging to supplement regular charging, rather than as their primary charging method.
So if wireless charging options are all around us, what's holding us back from using technology that should make our lives much easier? When it comes to wireless charging, we must remember that consumer awareness is not the only critical adoption barrier. In order to enable wireless charging in any device, regardless of the wireless charging technology at hand, a receiver must be integrated inside the device itself to receive the energy transmitted by some sort of wireless charging station. This necessarily means that even if consumers WANT wireless charging for ALL their devices, the different device manufacturers must get on board with this endeavor and integrate a receiver within their devices.
Having said this, we cannot underestimate the power of the consumers. Once people will engage with wireless charging in a manner that suits their desired user experience, their demand will inevitably lead to the increased implementation of wireless charging by device manufacturers. Therefore, the user experience needs to be our main focus.
THE KEY TURNING POINT
I believe this coming year is going to be a turning point in wireless charging, but a key to widespread adoption lies in the interoperability between the different technologies. Up until recently there have been three separate alliances attempting to standardize the wireless power space, forcing end-consumers (knowingly or not) to decide on one technology that provides them wireless charging. In mid-2015, PMA and A4WP joined forces to create the AirFuel Alliance, which has already begun to streamline interoperability between the charging technologies.
At the end of the day, the different wireless charging players realize that for the end-user it doesn't matter what technology he or she is using - they just want it to work, and work well. This means that by 'dropping their device' in a certain wireless charging zone they can charge their device without giving it any extra thought. This crucial factor in the user experience is the reason why collaboration is essential for the success of the entire wireless charging space.
Some have difficulty understanding how competing technologies can join forces under a single roof, however, I see it differently. Every technology has its set of unique advantages necessary to the advancement of the wireless charging space, promoting incorporation of wireless charging into the user's everyday life. Moreover, often these technologies don't even target the same product category. For example, induction is great for those larger devices that aren't difficult for a user to place precisely on a charging pad. On the other hand, near-field RF technology, is better for those smaller, potentially curved devices for which you can't depend on the user to place it exactly in a predefined area.
As the popularity of wearables continues to grow in 2016 and the number of devices per individual increases, an easier charging solution will have to be put in place. We can't carry all those different cables forever.
So what's the solution? What will be the pivotal key to mass adoption of wireless charging?
CUTTING THE CORD
Let's face it, we're all creatures of habit and once we get used to the cords in our lives, we become wary of letting them go and accepting new solutions, even if they will simplify our daily routine.
Like any new consumer product, we will only be willing to integrate this technology into our lives once we find we can fully trust it. For this to happen, USER EXPERIENCE IS KEY. Once we realize the technology's value in simplifying our lives, then the true adoption will begin - to a point where we won't remember what it was like to carry a charger.
In tandem with improving the user experience, we must work to improve the technology's overall availability, beyond the smartphone. To widen wireless charging access, the technology must be adopted by enough key device manufacturers in the consumer space and integrated into different types of electronic devices so its value is truly realized.
So how can we improve the user experience with wireless charging? At the end of the day, nobody really wants to deal with cords, wires, and chargers. And when you say wireless charging, they want the true hands-free experience of dropping their device and having it charge, without exact placement or alignment.
The current user experience with wireless charging does not make charging your phone any easier than with any old plug-in charger. To drive fast adoption of wireless charging, new solutions will have to improve the simplicity of use when it comes to charging. New innovations will have to focus solely on the user, so that charging simply blends into the user's everyday life and they can charge their growing amount of devices without even noticing.
I believe that achieving cooperation between different technologies in the wireless charging space, bringing on more manufacturers (not just of smartphones) who will integrate the technology in their devices, and most importantly, making the user experience our main focus, will all lead to a revolution in adoption of wireless charging. The technology is here. It is up to all of us to simply integrate it into our everyday lives, and I know that this is the year to do it.