CES is the Consumer Electronics Show, the annual convention/trade event hosted by the Consumer Technology Association, an organisation that seeks to innovate and standardise consumer technology.
Its aim is to move the consumer technology industry forward and showcase what lies in store for the future.
It should come as no surprise then, when we tell you that wireless charging is having an ever-growing presence at the CES every year as it continues to push the boundaries of how consumer products are powered.
And this year was no exception, with more wireless charging products on display than ever before, most of which showcasing better technology than ever before.
Needless to say, we learnt a lot about the state of wireless charging. But if we had to boil it down to 3 take home messages here they are:
1. Inductive Technology Is Evolving
For those of you who think that the end of the inductive standards war marks the end of the charging war you are very much mistaken. At CES 2018 Qi laid down the gauntlet for wired charging by showcasing how inductive charging is constantly finding novel and interesting ways to alleviate the hassle of the charging process.
A great example of this is the recent revelation that Qi can be used not just to power our phones, but to power a whole milieu of consumer products throughout our house and home.
Qi is now a standard that exceeds mere product, product category or branding. It is not monopolised by one brand or one product type but is a standard that has the potential to be integrated into anything that has a battery.
At the Wireless Power Consortium stand we got an insight into how wireless power could be used to power a variety of kitchen appliances, everything from a blender to a kettle. Watch this video for a demonstration:
Essentially, this works by having Qi transmitters built into surfaces throughout the kitchen, these can then inductively transfer power through a thickness of up to 40mm into Qi enabled devices. Not only is this perfectly safe, but it demonstrates the possibility of having a kitchen free of cable hazards, allowing appliances to work simply by putting them in the right place.
Another way in which Qi is evolving is in the type of products we saw at CES 2018, no longer are we seeing standard charging pads but charging companies such as Zens, RAVPower, Anker and Belkin to name a few, were showcasing entire wireless charging ranges with a different type of charger for every location.
Which brings us onto our next point…
2. A New Generation of Qi Products Is on The Horizon
With the Qi standard already well established many inductive charger manufacturers are now trying to set themselves apart from the competition.
In particular, many new models at CES were built with the iPhone in mind due to its recent adoption of Qi in September 2017. Considering the iPhone encompasses over 40 percent of the smartphone market in the US this was an obvious target audience for most brands.
The only issue here is that the iPhone is only capable of receiving 7.5W of power, a speed that is half of what some Samsung phones are capable (15W). So, while the look and feel of these devices has improved hugely, it is a bit frustrating that some chargers were limited to 7.5W of power. However, the best products, such as the new RAVPower charger, have a variable output that can switch between 10W and 7.5W depending on the device.
We can only hope that the next iPhone catches up with the rest of the pack because if inductive is going to completely replace wired charging it needs to keep pushing the speed at which it can transfer charge.
Here are some of our top picks that we thought stood out from the crowd:
Belkin's latest range has reverted to a simplistic design reminiscent of the earliest wireless charger. Bright and bold colours along with a minimalist puck aesthetic go hand in hand with the contemporary Apple aesthetic but also make these products unique.
Belkin have gone Apple friendly with their design as well, sporting a stockier and more circular pad that matches well with the dimensions of the iPhone X and takes up less space than your average charger.
The range includes a pad, a stand, a car mount and a dual charging pad, with each model built around the same simplistic aesthetic. The dual charging pad, while not the first of its kind, opens up the possibility of shared charging spots in your home.
The stand in particular is an interesting piece as it maintains the shape and aesthetic of the charging pad but with added stand functionality, it can also charge in both portrait and landscape whilst utilising just a single Qi coil, a unique achievement.
Anker were showing off a similar range of products at CES this year with their latest PowerWave series which includes: a pad, a stand and a dual charging pad.
In contrast to their previous black wireless chargers they have gone for a bright white colouration with a smart grey TPU finish for all three designs. The aesthetics are some of the best looking we’ve seen so far and give off a smart modern vibe that will look great in any environment.
Anker’s range also boasts some top of the range specs just like Belkin’s, with over-charge protection and first of their kind internal cooling fans. The main difference is that Anker’s products looks set to release at the £30-40 price bracket compared to Belkin’s £40-60.
An up and coming brand to look out for after their showcase at CES was iOttie, who stood out from the crowd purely on the basis of the unique design of their charging pads. The oval cylindrical design is different to anything we’ve seen before, but pulls off a neat aesthetic using a felt coating and a subtle LED on the side.
While this might be a bit of a marmite product (you either love it or you hate it), it looks smart and would blend in well with any old-fashioned office environment.
The charging stand also has another USB port to allow for charging two devices at the same time.
Some other honourable mentions include:
- Ventev- who have designed an ingenious charging stand which slides to align with your phone to prevent any alignment issues.
- iHome- who will soon be releasing a bedside alarm clock with multiple capabilities, one of them being the ability to wirelessly charge your phone at 7.5W.
- Corsair- who are building wireless charging into one of their mouse-pads so that you never have to plug your wireless mouse in ever again.
3. Far Field Technologies Are Great But May Not Be Pracitcal For Smartphones
Despite the sheer range of Qi chargers on display at CES 2018, it was the RF technologies that stole many of the headlines.
Whilst there were some pretty cool technologies on display that could demonstrate some long-distance charging speeds, it still left us questioning whether any of these would ever be practical to use for our smartphones.
At the very least it looks like distance charging may be able to play a role in charging some peripheral gadgets in the next year or so.
As expected Energous was surrounded by a shroud of mystery at CES again this year, with no video evidence of their presence at the trade show at all on YouTube.
However, a no doubt carefully constructed video posted on Tom’s Guide shows some footage of the Energous Wattup product, filmed in a room which we will just have to accept was somewhere at CES.
Despite all the usual caveats coming to mind when talking about Energous, it’s still worth pointing out that what was shown in this video (if it is to be believed), does look pretty cool.
With Wattup integrated into a computer monitor or a Bluetooth speaker, the video shows how Wattup can be used as a hub to charge multiple peripheral devices at the same time such as mice, keyboards and remotes, all from a distance of up to 3 feet.
It is unclear how adding devices to the charging area will affect the charging rate of existing devices in the radius but the video indicates that Wattup cycles between them so that all of its targets can charge simultaneously.
Supposedly Wattup can charge your smartphones at rates of up to 7.5W of power, but the demonstration only shows 3W on the screen. Overall we don’t know what to think about this, it looks promising but we’re really unsure of how much to believe, only a real living breathing product will convince us at this point.
Another company called Powercast was showcasing a more practical product RF technology which uses could actually witness at their stand. Their “PowerSpot” transmitter, was able to demonstrate charging of various gadgets at record breaking distances.
According Powercast, the transmitter can achieve multi-device charging from as far as 80 feet away, but this comes at the cost of a significant drop off in efficiency the further away you go.
The PowerSpot transmitter will only output about 1W of power so its usage will be limited to charging peripherals such as headphones, game controllers and remotes, but unlike Energous these were capabilities the Powercast team were able to demonstrate right before peoples eyes.
Despite the slow output the usefulness of this product is definitely obvious, just place any of your devices down near the PowerSpot transmitter and let them slowly charge over the course of the day. For things like tv remotes that you put down most of the time anyway, this should feel seamless.
The technology is FCC approved and Powercast claims it could be on the market in the third quarter of 2018 for around $50 (just under £40).
Take Home Message
If one thing should be crystal clear here it’s that various companies are really redefining what is possible with wireless charging.
The brands behind inductive wireless charging are changing the rules of what’s possible and have begun to integrate Qi into a whole host of products that can cater to every need. Instead of inductive charging being solely a process of putting your phone on a pad, it has become so much more than that, charging your phone can become possible at any point throughout your day (and night) without you even having to think about it.
Far field technologies also seem to be improving. But it’s becoming more apparent that they might be more useful as a means of trickle charging devices other than smartphones that are less power demanding. Nevertheless, combined with Qi inductive charging, these two technologies could be a deadly combination that would sentence wires to an early grave.
On top of this, Qi as a standard is beginning to transcend the confines of smartphone wireless charging, and should continue to, as other industries realise its value.
Wireless ubiquity is not some post-modern fantasy, it is a reality that is coming soon, and now is the time to take advantage of it.
Take advantage of wireless charging right now by checking out our wide selection of products
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- Tags: Anker, Apple, Belkin, CES 2018, Charging Speed, Corsair, Energous, Far Field, iHome, Inductive, iOttie, iPhone, Kitchen Charging, Nomad, Powercast, Qi Certification, RF, Ventev, Wireless Ubiquity