Apple announced the eagerly awaited iPhone 15 yesterday during its annual September event which also revealed the new Series 9 Apple Watch and a suite of accessories. The theme for this year’s event seemed to be Apple’s focus on sustainability. The new Apple Watch was revealed as its first-ever carbon-neutral product, reportedly meeting its strict requirements of 100% clean electricity for manufacturing and product use, 30% recycled or renewable material by weight, and 50% shipping without the use of air transportation.
In addition, it was noted that the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus now use 100% recycled cobalt in the battery and 100 percent recycled copper in the main logic board, copper wire in the Taptic Engine, and copper foil in the inductive charger along with 75% recycled aluminium in the enclosure, 100% recycled rare earth elements in all magnets and 100% recycled gold in the USB-C connector.
Whilst these achievements are related to the manufacturing of the devices, below we discuss how some of the other design changes support a greener future for the wider charging ecosystem.
Apple’s shift to the use of a USB-C connector in the iPhone 15 was largely driven by EU regulations for a common charging connector, with the aim of reducing waste generated by redundant power adapters and cables. Apple, however, was heavily involved in the development of the USB Type-C standard and had already adopted the connector across its Mac, and iPad range along with products which include the new AirPods Pro2. The main benefit of a USB-C connector in the iPhone is interoperability with other devices and therefore the ability to use the same cable and charger interchangeably. This isn’t always as straightforward as it should be, however, with different power capabilities delivered by power adapters, various fast charging protocols and different grades of cable capable of supporting higher power via device-to-charger authentication.
Apple’s tech specs for iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro both state that fast-charge provides up to 50% charge in around 30 minutes with 20W adapter or higher. This is the same as iPhone 14 specs, so it’s unlikely any faster charging has been introduced with the inclusion of the USB-C connector.
Last year Apple released a new dual port USB-C power adapter capable of delivering up to 35W. As it no longer ships an adapter with the iPhone or Apple Watch, but does provide the cable, this enables users to make a choice and further reduce waste by purchasing a single adapter to power multiple devices simultaneously.
MagSafe and Qi2 Wireless Charging
Wireless charging via Qi was introduced into iPhone in 2017 with the launch of the iPhone X. Apple then introduced MagSafe wireless charging into the iPhone 12 in 2020 and has since included it in all subsequent models and added it into AirPods (3rd generation) and AirPods Pro (2nd generation). MagSafe uses built-in magnets to enable ease of attach to wireless chargers enhancing consumer experience but also increasing the efficiency of power transfer by reducing coupling losses.
The Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) announced earlier this year that a major update to its global wireless charging specification was coming, called Qi2, and that it had adopted Apple’s magnetic attach approach along with a new authentication process and other enhanced safety features. While the WPC hasn’t yet formally announced the availability of testing and certification to the Qi2 standard, Apple’s support of future Qi2 chargers in the iPhone 15 means that the ecosystem is likely to evolve rapidly over the next 12 months. Apple still includes MagSafe wireless charging in addition to this support and it’s unlikely this is going away. SAR expects that charging wirelessly with MagSafe will provide some future additional features over standard Qi2 charging (e.g. higher power transfer for faster charging).
The adoption of Qi2 is however significant and enables iPhone 15 to charge up to 15W on 3rd party Qi2 certified chargers that would also provide the same power delivery to other Qi2-certified mobile phones and devices. Once other mobile phones, automotive in-cabin chargers, public transportation and other public charging infrastructure adopt Qi2 it essentially becomes a ubiquitous charging interface providing up to 15W. Benefits include no mechanical wear on connectors and no need to purchase and carry additional cables, with the convenience of magnetic attach which provides greater charging efficiency than legacy Qi wireless chargers.
Device-to-Device “Power Sharing”
The adoption of USB-C in iPhone 15 also enables it to provide power to other external peripherals with USB-C connectors via the same cable it ships with (USB-C at both ends) and other USB-C specific cables. For example, the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) charging case will charge when connected via a USB-C cable to the iPhone 15. Similarly, an Apple Watch will charge via its USB-C Magnetic Charger cable when connected to an iPhone 15 USB-C port.
For peripherals that require small amounts of power this makes a lot of sense and could replace the need for an additional external adapter to charge these independently, thus further reducing additional waste.
Additional Functionality – Standby Mode
An interesting new feature in iOS 17, which also featured in Apple’s event yesterday, is standby mode, which automatically places the iPhone in a customisable screen view when locked, on charge and placed in a horizontal position. A MagSafe, Qi-based wireless charger or a cable can be used to charge but the iPhone needs to be positioned at an angle (not a flat surface), so a charging stand is ideal. A couple of obvious use cases include a nightstand clock and a night light, both of which could eliminate the requirements for stand-alone devices that perform the same function.
SAR quantifies and forecasts the markets for mobile phones and other consumer devices in its Device Forecasts Service. It analyses technology trends and impacts on wired and wireless charging markets via its USB Power & Charging and Wireless Power and Charging services (including Qi2 developments). For briefing or wider discussion on any of the developments mentioned above, please get in touch to schedule a call.
The original article is here.