Wireless charging set for huge growth in next 10 years

Just 55 million wireless power receivers shipped worldwide last year, but that figure will more than double to 120 million units in 2015, according to IHS.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

Samsung's Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge both support wireless charging. Samsung

Being forced to plug in your devices to charge them up could be a thing of the past for many of us in the coming years, according to new data from research firm IHS.

Total wireless power receiver shipments hit just 55 million units in 2014, but that figure will jump to more than 120 million in 2015, IHS reported Tuesday. The research firm said it expects wireless charging receivers to continue to grow in popularity, reaching shipments of more than 2 billion units in 2024.

Wireless charging represents an important shift for the tech industry. Historically, mobile-device owners have been forced to plug their products into a charger to refresh a battery. Wireless charging, however, ditches the cord and allows users to simply rest their device atop a charging pad to add juice.

Samsung made waves in the wireless-charging industry earlier this month after announcing that its flagship handsets, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, would support wireless charging. Apple's upcoming smartwatch Apple Watch also supports a form of wireless charging, called "tightly coupled inductive solution," despite having a charger that connects to the underside of the watch's face.

IKEA, the world's largest furniture maker, said it would start selling furniture that would come bundled with wireless charging. The first line of furniture will hit store shelves next month and work with compatible smartphones and cases.

Compatibility, however, is one of the major issues for wireless charging. Most devices on store shelves today do not support wireless charging, and those that do need to contend with competing standards. The Wireless Power Consortium offers the Qi wireless-charging standard, which is incompatible with standards from the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) and Alliance for Wireless Power. The latter two organizations are set to merge in July to help ease some of the competition, but Qi isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

In the past, most smartphones that supported wireless charging were based on the Qi standard, but the PMA standard has also started to make inroads. The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, for instance, support both standards to get around the issue. It's believed that after the merger between PMA and Alliance for Wireless Power, PMA's standard will live on, pitting it against Qi. Apple Watch uses its own proprietary standard.

For consumers, the standards differences may cause trouble. Yes, smartphone vendors will likely sell wireless chargers compatible with their products. But consumers looking for third-party accessories will have to know which standard the particular product is running on to see if it's compatible.

According to IHS, the general lack of high-profile products supporting wireless charging and confusion over those standards has prompted some education issues for companies. IHS conducted a survey last year that found that 63 percent of consumers either do not know about wireless charging or don't understand it, leading smartphone makers to try to educate consumers on its value.

Still, the numbers don't lie. IHS says that wireless charging is coming fast and furious and even with standards and education issues, the market will thrive. In 2015, wireless-charging revenue will stand at about $1.7 billion. By 2024, industry revenue will increase to nearly $15 billion.