In 2017, AirPower was announced; a charging mat introduced by Apple as a tech-charging game-changer, marketed as a first in wireless charging with the ability to charge multiple products at once without the spaghetti junction of cables. However, Apple pulled the launch of this product and, as if embarrassed by its very presence, hid all mention of it from webpages and other platforms. If a tech-giant such as Apple decide that this product is not viable, safe or both then it begs the question; is wireless charging really all it’s cracked up to be? Not only was the technology flawed but the question of target market is still a niche one, while the Apple iPhone accounts for 50% of their entire business revenue, the number of those iPhone users who also have the Apple iWatch and Airpods is a far less impressive number. Although the potential for sales of AirPower was initially thought to be quite high and so multiple ‘copy-cat’ products have appeared on the market since then though each with their own limitations and flaws. So reliable ‘big-tech’ companies have, for the most part, still only achieved wireless charging for single products at a time.
If we’re being honest with ourselves wireless charging really does have its limits even if it were to function seamlessly. The technology currently relies on the device requiring charge being motionless, laid flat on top of the wireless charging platform and restricted to that charging point only, miss the exacting charging spot (coil) or knock the device slightly and the device will not charge. Any Apple-User will know firsthand that the batteries in their electronic products (Apple iPhone being renowned as the worst offender) are simply not long-lasting enough to get through the entire day while being used heavily, charging is often required at some stage throughout a day to ensure the device doesn’t run out of juice. Wireless charging docking stations would need to reside somewhere such as a bedside table or desk to prove entirely useful – places were the user is likely to leave the phone alone for long periods, untouched. Charging while using would simply not be an option unless the device is paired with other tech such as Bluetooth speakers, keyboards and even monitors. Realistically “wireless charging” is just that – charging without wires but still entirely relies on contact between device and base.
This is probably why tech companies (such as Xiaomi) keep teasing us with revolutionary products promising ‘Air Charging’. Air Charging loosely promises to offer charge to devices, similar to how a Wi-Fi router offers the internet; within a limited distance radius (usually enough for the average home) and stronger the closer the device is to the base. The ideal and most desirable new product for all modern homes surely? In theory this concept is one that could really take off as who doesn’t want to never have to plug/place their phone or other electronic device into/onto its charger ever again or worry that their device might run out of power at that crucial moment? In practice the offering is far less revolutionary and actually quite disappointing.
While wireless charging works with most modern smartphones and other recent devices, air charging will work with far more limited tech meaning that adapters will need to be purchased to enable an existing device to take advantage, alternatively new compatible devices will be required. Even once compatibility has been addressed, a standard wired charger for a smartphone offers 10-30W of charge, increased to as much as 80W for some of the better ‘fast chargers’ on the market. By comparison, air charging (and a lot of the wireless charging bases too) offer a mere 5W, this is the maximum per device, so this charge decreases the further from the base unit the device is. To date the most wattage available through a wireless charging unit is 20W (Xiaomi Charging Pad announced at Mi 11 Ultra event in March 2021). Combine this very average power with the fact that wireless charging uses approximately 30% more energy than wired so wired charging still far outstrips either of these methods in terms of efficiency and energy-saving. As with all newer technologies, wireless and air charging products and packages are expensive, this is expected and for those who love to have the latest gadgets they won’t mind the heavy price-tags but to most will prefer to use the far cheaper and more efficient wired charging, especially when presented with other issues presented by wireless and air charging.
Batteries have a shelf life, it is one of the biggest environmental bugbears that lithium batteries are very harmful to the environment and yet, due to their inevitable outcome, more and more are ending up in landfill while consumerism means millions more are being purchased everyday – and so the harmful cycle continues. There are tips and tricks to encourage longer-lasting battery efficiency such as letting batteries complete full charging cycles, not leaving batteries plugged in when fully charged, letting the battery completely run out of power before recharging, etc. It makes perfect sense then that, as well as being inefficient and expensive, air charging could potentially be bad news for batteries and even worse news for the environment. Offering constant charge to a device will undoubtedly shorten the life expectancy of batteries further adding to global waste and environmental issues.
LapCabby as a leader in charging solutions are continuously monitoring the wireless and air-charging advances and know that one day the way we charge devices will drastically change, but not today. Today, although we may be ready for such an advancement in technology, the products on the market are a little raw. Waiting a while longer for the technology to get to where it really needs to be for these products is the sensible and cost-effective choice…for now.