A Wireless Future

If you pay attention to the Apple rumor mill at all, there’s a recurring notion that this year’s iPhone (whatever number it ends up getting) will support wireless charging. Big deal, right? Various phones have had some sort of wireless inductive charing for years, but it’s never caught on. The inherent problem with those is that you need to place your phone somewhere specific. That’s less useful than cable charging in some sense, because at least you can be 100% certain a cable is plugged in.

Technology is changing though, and companies like Energous, rumored to be working with Apple, offer a wireless charging technology that will charge any device in a room. Most of the rumor blogs mention this as a passing feature, but if you look ahead a little bit more, a truly wireless future starts to look very interesting. Here’s how I see it playing out, based on the current ruomor landscape:

###Late 2017 New iPhone release goes one of a few ways-

a.) High end iPhone (Pro?) supports wireless charging and includes transmitter in the box. b.) All new iPhone models support wireless charging, and you can buy a transimtter separately, at time of purchase ($99-$149?) c.) A combination of the two of these

(I’m leaning towards b.)

In any case, this starts the ball rolling. At first, only a few people have the transmitters as Apple ramps up production, irons out the kinks, reduces cost. Maybe your favorite hipster coffee shop/bar purchases a few; it’s another sticker to put on the door next to the credit card, Foursquare, and Yelp logos. People with phones which support wireless charging start to talk on podcasts how they don’t worry about their phone’s battery life anymore.

###Late 2018+

You’ve got a lot of these transmitters installed in various places by now, the utility of it starts to become apparent. A new (high end?) Apple Watch that supports wireless charging is released, so you never actually need to take it off your wrist anymore. As a bonus, the watch can be a bit more powerful. Maybe it’s the same model that gets cellular connectivity, as the battery life concern with adding that is no longer an issue. But not everyone has one of these transmitters yet. So more hardware comes out; It’s built into a new version of the AppleTV and iMacs. Maybe Apple gets around to releasing a kitchen microphone box that has the transmitter built in too. Maybe MacBooks start to get the tech built in- either in the form of transmitter if plugged in, or just reciever. The reduction of power needs for MacBooks over the past 10 years positions them perfectly to enable short range, low power charging.

###Long term

New categories of devices are enabled by the removal of “good battery life” as a restriction. They just need to last long enough for however long it takes you to get from power hotspot A to B. Or maybe they’re designed to be used within the home, like VR headsets. (Or Apple does this sooner with the iPhone à la Google Daydream.) Augmented reality glasses are suddenly much more useful/less bulky - assuming they can drop the creepy/douchey Google Glass factor.

In general, we approach a world where we never need to worry about recharging our electronics again. While this might not be as profound a change as autonomous vehicles, we’re on the cusp of some sort of shift whose impact will be felt far into the future.

####*Induction vs mid-range charging This is, of course, assuming Apple goes down the mid-range charging route instead of induction charging. Frankly, I’d be shocked if they went with induction unless there’s some obvious substantial benefit they’ve figured out a way to add to it. And no, “I can just put it on this pad to charge it” isn’t substantially better. You know the plug is connected, you don’t know that you placed the phone on just the right spot on a pad that’s got to be always in place. If they did go with the type of tech that other phones have been using for years, then I’d honestly start to be concerned for the direction they’re headed in. Apple is a company that looks forward to better experiences and I just don’t see short-range induction as being a better enough experience to justify the added cost (engineering, product, etc.)