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Wireless Charging At CES 2019: Hype or Real — Or Just Not This Year?

Is this finally the year we’ll be bathing in wireless power? (And do we really want to be?)

Debating the promise of wireless charging has become an annual CES rite, so let’s kick it off: Will 2019 finally be the year where this becomes mainstream, or is it more overblown hype?

It’s likely somewhere in the middle, partially because of a definition problem, according to Joe Osborne, senior editor at TechRadar.

While traditionalists might use wirelessly vehicle charging as the gold standard — the idea of transferring power over meaningful distances — the most liberal definition now includes Qi chargers, which Osborne would preferably characterize as something closer to contact charging.

Also, he notes, infrastructure roadblocks remain. “We’ve just gotten to the point where every flagship smartphone runs with glass, and that’s one of the surfaces generally required to accept that signal. That’s why you don’t see many aluminum phones anymore.”

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Despite these hurdles, “we might not be as far as we might think,” he says. Ossia, for example, will demonstrate at CES its transmitter- and receiver-based wireless tech, which operates in a network fashion that’s somewhat similar to WiFi.

“That’s one of those things that, hype or not, I get really excited about at CES,” says Tom’s Hardware editor-in-chief Avram Piltch. “For the last two or three years I’ve been invited to view various wireless power technologies, and it always impresses me when they show me a phone that’s charging because there’s something in the ceiling beaming electricity down to it.”

However, as Piltch notes, Federal Communications Commission transmission guidelines prevent most companies from transmitting more than 1 watt, thus serving as another roadblock. As such, it remains important to reset industry (and consumer) expectations since it will likely be some time before we’re “swimming in power.”

And, when we are, it’s more likely that our smartphones will be automatically “topped off” rather than fully recharged as quickly as we’ve become accustomed to.

Osborne, Piltch, and TWICE senior content producer Alan Wolf will not only temper other CES expectations during Get Ready for CES, an interactive webcast on Dec. 11, they’ll share the categories and technologies they’re most eager to see this year.

Have questions for the editors about CES or other 2019 tech predictions? Submit them during Get Ready for CES, and Osborne, Piltch, and Wolf will answer them during a live Q&A.