Don’t Be Shocked If Your Next Phone Has No Ports at All

The future is wireless, and it’s closer than you think

Photo: AFP Contributor/Getty Images

TThree years ago, to the horror of consumers, reviewers and investors alike, Apple pulled the plug on the headphone jack. Was this the beginning of the end for Apple? How could they make such a senseless, boneheaded decision?

Yet when the dust settled and the smoke cleared, it was obvious to most that Apple had made the right choice. The company understood that the future was wireless, even if the public didn’t realize it yet. Today, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a phone still boasting the now-antiquated 3.5mm connector.

There’s one port on your phone that hasn’t been removed yet: the charging port. The keyword here is yet — it’s simply a matter of time before the cable is cut on the charger as well.

Is wireless charging ready?

Wireless charging is currently terrible. It’s slow, wastes energy, and hasn’t been widely adopted. Most phones that support the standard are only capable of receiving a maximum power output of 5 Watts (W). In comparison, the newest Samsung Galaxy phones come with a 25W charger in the box, and Samsung sells a ludicrously powerful 45W charger. Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and other manufacturers all tout the ability to replenish their phone’s battery by 50% in only 30 minutes with their respective fast-chargers. In comparison, it takes more than an hour of wireless charging for an iPhone 11 to do the same.

You may remember a product called AirPower — Apple’s attempt at a wireless charging pad. A futile attempt it was: Announced at Apple’s 2017 event and slated for release in 2018, Apple eventually announced in March 2019 that the project was canceled amidst rumors of overheating issues and months of silence.

Apple stated that the charging pad was unable to achieve the company’s “high standards” — in other words, the technology required to make such a product wasn’t reliable enough.

Add on the fact that wireless charging is even slower if you have a case on and the inability to use your phone while it’s charging, it certainly seems like wireless charging isn’t ready yet.

But even despite its many flaws, I would still argue that wireless charging is ready. The system doesn’t need to be perfect, or even great — it just needs to work well enough for the pros to outweigh the cons.

The advantages are clear, with the biggest being convenience. Wireless charging means no more fussing around with power bricks or cables. One can imagine a world with wireless chargers littered everywhere, from coffee shops to airports to sports arenas. Watches and earbuds are charged via reverse-wireless capable phones, and our phones and laptops charged on top of wireless-ready desks and countertops.

There’s no reason to believe that this should be decades away rather than a reality that we are on the cusp of achieving.

Wireless charging may be slow, but that isn’t a big deal in the grander scheme of things. There’s a reason why Apple still ships its archaic 5W charger with their newest phones, including the iPhone 11.

The majority of consumers don’t care if their phone charges absurdly fast. A bigger battery, brighter screen, and sharper camera are all of greater importance. The removal of the charging port, even if it only saves a couple of millimeters of real estate, makes it possible for manufacturers to improve all of the above.

In a port-less world, cable fraying and damage to the charging port will be a thing of the past. Wireless charging continues to improve — iPhones support 7.5W chargers, which actually charge phones faster than the provided 5W brick. Samsung phones can already receive up to 15W delivered wirelessly and are also capable of reverse charging.

I believe the pros already outweigh the cons, and wireless charging is ready for prime time. But if you’re not convinced, it may help to look at other technologies that have been killed off.

FFrom the floppy disk to Adobe Flash to Windows XP, technologies are killed off all the time. In these instances, the decision to do so is often ridiculed at the time, but then quickly forgotten. As phone manufacturers continue their endless quest for bigger screens and batteries on thinner phones, the charging port undoubtedly needs to go.

With the death of the headphone jack came the birth of AirPods, which have seen tremendous success and become a status symbol. From Amazon to Google to Microsoft, every tech company and their mother is making their own version of the wireless earbuds.

Recall, however, that AirPods weren’t exactly a hit when they first released. They didn’t fit everyone’s ears, weren’t waterproof, are potentially dangerous to your hearing, aren’t repairable, and are very expensive. While Bluetooth earbuds and headphones were available long before Apple launched AirPods, they certainly weren’t the standard, and the majority of consumers still used a wired product. By all accounts, wireless audio sucked, and we weren’t “ready” for the removal of the 3.5mm port yet.

Today, we again stand at the same crossroads, with respect to the charging port. Once again, we are resistant to change, with the common consensus being that wireless charging isn’t fast enough or mainstream enough — that it isn’t “ready.”

Yet despite the many challenges that wireless charging poses, it’s plainly obvious what the future will look like, and there is no reason to wait any longer.

Renowned Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has earned himself the humble title of “Most Accurate Apple Analyst in the World,” recently predicted that the first completely wireless iPhone will be released in 2021.

Truthfully, I wouldn’t be surprised if another manufacturer releases a completely wireless phone before then as a means of getting a foot in the door first.

TThe demise of the power cord will bring about a new wave of products. Just as Apple waved goodbye to the headphone jack and said hello to AirPods, it will soon be saying Sayonara to its Lightning connectors (finally!) and welcoming AirPower to the family.

Don’t be fooled when Apple says AirPower is canceled — they are absolutely still working on it. AirPower will be to charging as AirPods were to the headphone jack. With its release will come the death of the ports, along with a whole lot of money to be made.

A sneak peek at AirPower from Apple’s 2017 event. Photo: Apple

I expect AirPower to be released the same year Apple goes wireless, with other phone manufacturers following suit with their own port-free phones and charging mats. Apple knows better than anyone that wireless is the future. They said it best themselves in their AirPower cancellation press statement:

“We continue to believe that the future is wireless and are committed to push the wireless experience forward.”

Just as VHS, fax machines, and MP3 players met their fate, the charging port will inevitably go down the same road. Even if it seems that wireless charging is still lagging behind, the impending doom of the port is just around the corner.

Sometimes writing, usually coding, always learning. Computer Engineering student at UWaterloo. https://jzxhuang.com

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