News: With Apple Cutting the Headphones Cord, Why Aren't They Cutting the Power Cord Too?

With Apple Cutting the Headphones Cord, Why Aren't They Cutting the Power Cord Too?

Before the iPhone 7 was launched and all the unrealized reports about the phone's features were tucked back into their annual rumor mill, there was some speculation about wireless charging. Specifically, whether or not the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus would support it. We now know they don't, and here's why.

The short answer is that wireless charging, for all the future-hype, isn't that great yet. It's just not. Wireless charging that requires a mat barely counts, it's still slower than wired, and there used to be complications with wireless charging through metal, which was an obvious problem for aluminum phones.

In a 2012 interview with Ina Fried, Phil Schiller, Apple Senior VP, also noted that "having to create another device you have to plug into the wall is actually, for most situations, more complicated."

As it stands, you can plug your phone in regardless of whether you're at home or practically anywhere else as long as you have the appropriate wire. Adding another less portable (and, yes, still wired) charging accessory in addition to a wired connection isn't an upgrade. Plus, when you really get down to it, the amount of time and effort you save plugging in your phone versus placing it on a specific surface is negligible.

Samsung's Wireless Charging Pad. Image via Samsung

It seems to me that rumors like this one become widespread more on the wings of wishful thinking than from any solid evidence. People have been dreaming about a wireless charging iPhone since there was an iPhone to dream about, but this year the rumor was almost credible. After all, if Apple planned on getting rid of the headphone jack, then how would we listen to music and charge the phone at the same time?

Bloomberg reported in January of 2016 that Apple was "working with partners in the US and Asia to develop new wireless charging technology that could be deployed on its mobile devices as soon as next year."

According to Bloomberg, the new technology would address the issue of attenuation (energy transfer gets weaker the farther a device is from the power source). That would be a big deal. Instead of having to place the device on a mat, it might be able to charge just by being in the proximity of a wireless power source. Of course, the proximity required could be inches or it could be feet. There are more recent reports that Apple is working with MediaTek on a wireless charging iPhone case, but neither company is commenting on the rumors—and a wireless charging case would still be just another accessory with a fancy trick.

What really got the ball rolling on these rumors, and part of why Schiller was talking about wireless charging at all in 2012, was a patent application in 2010 that described "wireless power utilization in a local computing environment." If you love reading patents, take a look. For those who prefer English, here's a quick summary: This technology would let supported devices charge wirelessly at a distance of up to a meter from the power source. The path from patent to product is long and uncertain, but if it works, who knows what the future will bring.

Apple was touting their "courage" to remove the headphone jack in September's keynote, saying: "We're just at the beginning of a truly wireless future we've been working toward for many years, where technology enables the seamless and automatic connection between you and your devices." But if that's true, where's our wireless charging?

Apple's courageous AirPods in action. Image by Apple/YouTube

Apple is really in a league of its own, and that's because when they finally do get around to incorporating new technologies into their products, their main priority is getting it right. Maybe we'll see wireless charging next year in the iPhone 8, or maybe it will take another five years before mobile phones are freed from their wired walls. I have no doubt in my mind that there will someday be a generation of humans born who struggle to grasp the concept of a power cord, but they're not here yet.

If you're dead set on having a device that supports wireless charging right this day, there are a number of Android devices available that do. I'm willing to wait.

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Cover image by Apple

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