iPhone 6s and iPad Pro: Apple fails to lead on wireless charging, again



There’s going to be a lot of dissection over the coming days and weeks about the iPad Pro and the iPhone 6S in terms of spec creep, and how yet again they’ve raised the bar on specific aspects of mobile technology.

This is not going to be one of those pieces.

Before I go on with this gripe session — just like I did last year, I’ve already traded in my iPad Air 2 and my iPhone 6 to Amazon in order to finance a new iPhone 6S and a new iPad Pro.

So I’ve already committed to buying the new devices. There’s accessories galore I want to look at, particularly in the armored case space. I’m gonna get to these guys in a bit.

That being said, and with all the goodness that the iPhone 6S and iPad Pro entail, and all the new technology being rolled out into these devices, Apple missed out on a huge opportunity to lead the industry with their tenth generation iPhone and seventh generation iPad.

That missed opportunity would be wireless charging.

Look, I am a firm believer and a huge fan of Apple’s Lightning connector. I practically wrote a sonnet for it praising its goodness.

I would also go as far to say that if it weren’t for the Lightning connector, we probably wouldn’t see the USB folks migrate to Type-C connector as opposed to the trapezoidal, easily damaged Micro-B madness we’re stuck with on many Android and Windows devices we have today.

We need high-speed interface cables and connectors. We need charging cables. But c’mon, can we stop the insanity, just a little, pretty please?

We knew this was happening, but am I the only one who sees the need to plug and unplug these things on a daily basis a pain in the ass and with the potential to damage my device every time I do it? Am I the only one who is sick and tired of bringing multiple chargers, industrial grade battery packs and myriad cables with me when I travel and having to scope out lounges and weird parts of airport terminals in order to avoid power receptacle squatters?

By the way, if you’re a power receptacle squatter/hogger, you are the LOWEST FORM OF LIFE ON EARTH. Ok, thanks. I just needed to vent that.

I spent some time talking to the folks at the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) last week and I learned a lot about how much progress they’ve made in improving the Qi standard, which if Apple were to implement in its devices would be license-free.

You got that correct. If they were to implement Qi, Apple pays nothing. Zero. Zip. Why? Because it’s an IEEE standard with a published specification just like the various Wi-Fi standards.

Sure, you have to pay for the chips and coils if you work with a component vendor, but that’s no different than what Apple already does when it works with companies that supply them with existing components for the baseband and Wi-Fi chips.

Why has Apple waited so long to do this? It could be that the first implementation of Qi wasn’t able to supply enough power to fast-charge an iPhone or an iPad — it had a maximum capacity of 5 watts.

However, the current Qi specification now allows for up to 15 watts, which is well within current fast charge requirements for smartphones and tablets. The latest Qi spec also allows for charging from longer distances than just a few millimeters away from the transmitter coil — it can actually broadcast power from several feet away, although with an obvious trade-off in efficiency.

The technology is also able to auto-sense the maximum wattage of receiving devices. So if you have a table equipped with a current generation Qi emitter, it can charge 15w and 5w-capable devices simultaneously, fully backward compatible with previous generation Qi-enabled devices, such as Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and various models of Nokia Windows Phones.

Now, it’s true that the WPC 15 watt standard has only been available as of June, so I can understand Apple perhaps wanting to see how things work out, even if they had the opportunity to have advanced discussions with WPC during the development cycle of the iPhone 6S and iPad Pro.

One has to assume a company with that much weight behind it would have been able to get a seat on the WPC board let alone gain membership fairly easily.

But I mean, come on, getting the 5 watt standard originally introduced in 2013 into at least the 6s and 6s Plus for standard speed charging or even slow-charging the iPads would have significantly moved the needle as far as creating incentives for many businesses, restaurants, cafes, and other public gathering places to put Qi infrastructure into place.

So Apple isn’t going to move the needle on wireless charging this time. Who should?

Well, I think this one needs to fall within the purview of the huge iPhone and iPad accessory industry. I’m talking about the OtterBoxes, the Tridents, the Griffins and the Lifeproofs of the world.

Look, let’s face it, many of us are forced to put our devices into big ugly cases anyway to protect them from being easily damaged. So why not build the Qi receiver and adapter into the case itself?

A lot of these guys are selling some very expensive cases at considerable margin for what amounts to a little bit of injected molded polycarbonate and silicone rubber.

Eventually, an enterprising company from China or someplace else in Asia is going to undercut them with similar quality products that cost a lot less. Simple protection just isn’t good enough anymore. And we all know what happens when technology companies sit on their laurels.

Consider this a call to action, my accessories industry friends. Give us Qi in your case products. Because our devices are thirsty, and we’re sick of the constant annoyances of carrying chargers everywhere we go.

Should Apple integrate 15 watt Qi into their next-generation iPhones and iPads? Should the case vendors take up the slack with the WPC? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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