Is wireless charging bad for your smartphone?

With Apple adopting wireless charging in the iPhone 8 and X, the technology will become far more widely adopted, both among consumers and within corporations.

Apple chose to use the Qi specification, which uses inductive charging technology, for its iPhone 8 and iPhone X lineup of smartphones. Samsung committed to the same specification for its flagship Galaxy smartphones; in all, about 90 smartphone models use Qi today, making it the industry's most popular among three standards.

In addition to desktop charging stations, nearly 80 car models now offer Qi-based wireless charging in their cabins.

There are more than 5,000 public Qi charging locations worldwide, according to the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), the entity in charge of the Qi standard.

Major brands like McDonald's, Marriott, Ibis and others have built Qi into their properties. Airports, such as London Heathrow, Philadelphia and others around the world, have Qi charging stations. And businesses like Facebook, Google, Deloitte, PwC and Cisco have built Qi into their corporate offices.

Consumer demand for wireless charging in the office and public spaces is heavily driven by adoption of devices in the mobile phone market, both in terms of volume and technology choices. So now that Apple has chosen to use the Qi standard of wireless charging, it makes it easier for suppliers of chargers in public infrastructure to provide suitable charging solutions that will work with the devices.

Along with third-party wireless charging manufacturers, Apple also plans to release its own AirPower wireless charging station designed to charge up to three Apple products at once, including the iPhone devices, Apple Watch and Apple AirPods through the charging case.

For several years, restaurants, coffee shops and airports have been piloting the use of wireless charging for customer convenience. With wireless charging adoption becoming widespread, the impulse for many users will be to just plop their smartphones down on the charging pad where it will remain fully charged all day long.

Is it bad to fully charge your smartphone?

With greater ease of charging via wireless technology, the question becomes: Is it bad for your mobile device battery to be fully charged all the time? While you cannot overcharge a smartphone or tablet battery, as the electronics will not allow it, keeping it fully charged will hasten its degradation.

Depending on their design, and on how accurately you place your device onto the charging mat, efficiency runs from as little as 30 percent to 80 percent. That is, even in an ideal setup, 20 percent of the power used to charge your device can be wasted. Efficiency is improving all the time, but is still worse for low-power charging (like phones) than it is for high-power charging (electric cars), where efficiency is nearing that of a wired connection.

For each individual device, that’s not really a big deal. But Apple sells 10 iPhones per second. That means wireless charging pads soon will become ubiquitous, and that power wastage will be multiplied by tens of millions of users in a few years. And that’s bad news for the climate.

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