Qi receiver growth is happening in new categories like earbud cases. However, Qi’s size and data limitations require different solutions for devices with smaller form factors.
Qi has become the global wireless charging standard for smartphones, enabling safe and interoperable powering of these widely used devices. Led by the Wireless Power Consortium (disclosure: NuCurrent is a Full Member of the WPC), this standard is now used in billions of devices, including approximately 500 Million that feature NuCurrent technology.
Qi receivers growing into new categories
NuCurrent’s analysis of recent Qi receiver certifications show that – while smartphones remain the dominant category in the industry – earbuds and charging cases are emerging as new entrants leveraging the technology. Below is a look at Qi receiver certifications by product type.
Above: Number of Qi Rx certifications by product type in 2019
Why earbud cases?
Hearables are one of the fastest-growing device categories, led by Apple’s AirPods. Their second-generation product debuted as the first such product with wireless charging, using Qi to deliver power to the case, which in turn charges the earbuds via metal contacts. Like smartphones, AirPods and other hearable devices are compact devices that stay with the user all day and require frequent recharging.
The size of the AirPods case – which is large enough for a wire-wound coil – makes Qi a suitable choice for these devices, especially when considering the benefit of being able to charge these cases on standard wireless phone chargers. As is often the case in personal technology, fast-followers are now entering the market.
What about other wearable and/or hearable devices?
Notably absent from this Qi receivers list are other forms of wearable and hearable devices like fitness trackers, smart glasses, watches, and smart jewelry. And the reason is pretty simple: these devices have form factors that make it difficult to create designs that can achieve Qi’s interoperability standards. But that doesn’t mean these devices will be left out of the wireless charging game. New wireless charging standards from the NFC Forum were recently ratified, bringing 1W of power transferred (about 500mW received) along with 106 kb/s worth of data. NuCurrent is already advancing the Wireless Charging Specification (WLC) having achieved 3W of power received with 106 kb/s of data transfer and 1W of power received with 848 kb/s.
It’s clear that size no longer determines a product’s fit for wireless power — all-new personal tech should have wireless power enabled, or risk getting overlooked by consumers. For product managers of devices with particularly small form-factors and high data requirements (i.e. smart jewelry or fitness trackers), NFC charging is likely the optimal solution – whereas Qi charging should be considered by those looking to prioritize power delivery and interoperability.