February 20, 2017

4 mobile charging trends from CES 2017

By Team Ventev Topic:

CES 2017 has come and gone, and the four-day tour de tech was a serious tour de force: A gathering of the tech sector’s best and brightest, armed with cutting-edge developments that sometimes change the way we live.

For a company like Ventev, the Next Big Thing is what we live for. Whether it’s the latest in charging technology or the rise of new device makers, our job is to anticipate what’s coming so that when a hot new phone or feature hits the market, we have everything needed to support it. CES isn’t just a demonstration of the latest shiny new things. It’s validation of the work we’ve done and investments we’ve made in supporting the latest technology.

With that in mind, here’s the emerging tech we expect to see more of – or less of – going forward:

Power delivery delivers

This is the year power delivery (PD) takes off. A lot of different suppliers were showing off products with PD, most charging at 27 watts, and while that’s a lower-powered version, it’s a sign that fast charging is taking hold.

To give a little background, PD is the new-ish standard that allows devices to be charged at higher wattages – up to 100 watts. The higher the wattage, the faster the charge.

The Google Pixel XL charges at 18 watts, the most of any phone on the market right now. For accessory makers, it’s kind of speculative to have chargers that go beyond that for phones, but all the aftermarket companies are anticipating that they need to be there with 18 or 27 watts for tablets and some small laptops, like the latest Macbook, which charges at 29 watts. We’ve gone even further, making a 45-watt charger.

Chinese-brand phones step up their U.S. campaigns

Huawei, Xiaomi, and ZTE all had a big presence in Las Vegas. Previously, Huawei had supplied handsets under a private label for other companies. ZTE was doing the same thing. Now we’re starting to see these Chinese brands put out handsets under their own names.

Huawei is making a big push into the U.S., and had a massive display around its Mate 9. That trend is going to raise some questions for makers of flagship phones. When smartphones become relatively low-cost commodities, what features and technologies will keep fans interested and willing to pay a premium?

Wireless charging trickles out to consumers

We had a number of vendors show us wireless-charging batteries. Turn on the battery, put your phone on top of it, and it will charge. They were made by small, non-branded Chinese companies, and they charged at just 5 watts. One of them had a sticky pad, so you could stick it to your phone while using it or keep it in your pocket. It’s an interesting idea, but just not powerful enough at that charge speed.

Another company had a wireless charging tower, capable of charging your phone from a few meters away. The system requires a special case be used with your phone, but that could be cool for a meeting room. It was also slow, maybe just 3 watts. But the technology is definitely getting better.

Consumers have been reluctant to adopt wireless chargers, since most offer underwhelming charge speeds that max out at 5 watts – so low that if you stream music or use GPS while charging, your phone will lose battery.

But some wireless charging is taking major leaps toward a faster and better user experience. We were one of the few companies showing working 15-watt wireless chargers, fast enough to be a good option for most users. Our WirelessPro Dock and WirelessPro Stand were two of the show’s wireless charging highlights. Other companies were showing some mock ups that suggest wireless charging could make a big splash this year.

Transitioning to Type C

Device makers are starting to transition from micro-USB ports to Type C. USB-C, the fabled “one cable to rule them all,” is small enough for mobile devices, but also capable of charging a laptop and handling super-fast data transfer speeds.

From what we saw at CES, a lot of people are waiting to see whether Apple and Samsung will include USB-C in their next smartphones. Samsung did use USB-C in the Galaxy Note 7 as well as the three A series phones launched at CES, so it may be that the next Galaxy products will sport USB-C.

There’s one big development that could slow the adoption of USB-C. It’s possible that some device makers will go completely wireless on their phones, relying on Bluetooth headsets and wireless chargers. For now, however, it looks like the transition to USB-C is in full force this year.

What’s around the curve

CES 2017 felt like a year of catch-up. Last year, everything was announced but the technology was early. This year, the hot new features are finally entering production and coming into the market. We saw that with PD, USB-C, and now with wireless charging. Overall, that’s part of a normal product development cycle, but we left feeling we were ahead of the curve.

 

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