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Smartphone Wireless Charging in Cars Set to Dramatically Increase

Wireless charging of smartphones in cars is poised for huge gains, according to Laird, a global technology company specializing in wireless applications. We may not want to toss out those charging cables just yet, but the future is bright for those with phone batteries always on the brink of dying and no charging cable on hand or a place to plug it.

With the number of smartphones expected to more than double worldwide to roughly 6.1 billion in 2020, easier and more efficient solutions for charging them will likely develop alongside their growth in usage. Nowhere will such solutions be more welcome than in our vehicles.”

Smartphones and Cars

Think about how often you use a smartphone in your car. Laird puts the percentage of people using their smartphone while driving at about 70 percent. If this number seems high, remember there are a lot of smartphone uses beyond talking and texting. Uses range from GPS navigation to streaming music from apps, such as Pandora, or playlists loaded into the phone using apps from the vehicle manufacturer and looking up information on a browser.

Whether sending or receiving, pushing all this data through a smartphone eats battery life by the bucket. Compound usage with the extra power required by the latest crop of big phones with enhanced displays, and battery charging is an ever-present concern.

Many carmakers are addressing the increase of charging needs by adding more power outlets and USB ports to today’s new cars, but because they require extra hardware, it’s an imperfect solution. You can easily forget or lose cables and adapters; not to mention the maze of wires accompanying several phones or other devices being charged at once.

Wireless Charging Technology

Without diving too deeply into the details of charging wirelessly, some smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7, are engineered for wireless charging right out of the box, while other brands, like the iPhone, aren’t equipped with the same functionality. You simply place a smartphone equipped for wireless charging on a compatible charging pad, and it charges. It won’t charge nearly as quickly as a phone with a cable plugged into a wall outlet, but it will charge.

As VHS and Betamax slugged it out 40 years ago for domination of home videotaping, two primary standards of wireless charging are battling for the market today, Qi (pronounced “chee”) and Powermat. Some phones use one, and some the other. Likewise, some carmakers offer Qi, and others provide Powermat. Yes, you’re right; it’s a mess.

Several carmakers already offer wireless chargers in select models. Leading the way are Toyota, General Motors and Audi. GM supports Powermat, while Toyota and Audi offer Qi.

Where It’s Going

For the last decade, carmakers have been full steam ahead in increasing connectivity in their vehicles. What was once seen as a novelty sought after by only the most tech-savvy consumer is now expected by mainstream vehicle purchasers.

Accustomed to charging their phones just about anywhere, whether at home or work, smartphone users pushed carmakers to increase the number of power sources in today’s cars. Multiple power points and USB ports are common in newer vehicles. As smartphone users adopt wireless chargers at home and at work, they’ll begin to demand them in their vehicles, as well. It’s only a matter of time.

What it means to you: If a wireless charger is high on your list of must-haves in your next vehicle, do the research to ensure your smartphone and vehicle’s charging system are compatible. More and more vehicle models will offer wireless chargers, so there should be plenty to choose from, no matter which wireless standard you need. Oh, and rumor has it the next generation or two of iPhone may include wireless charging technology, too.

Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps is an author specializing in automotive, financial and travel news. For nearly 35 years he has covered the automotive industry for newspapers, magazines and internet websites. His resume includes The Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, The Washington Times and numerous other daily newspapers through syndication. He edited Auto World magazine, and helped create and edit NOPI Street... Read More

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