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The time has come for the Apple Watch to add Qi wireless charging

The Apple Watch Series 6 is officially out, with the latest entry in Apple’s smartwatch range adding new features such as a blood oxygen sensor and a brighter display. But the company has once again focused on a long-awaited addition to the Apple Watch: support for the universal Qi wireless charging standard.

It’s an incredibly frustrating limitation for the product, which ensures that you can only use Apple’s chargers to charge the device. More importantly, it means you can’t use a standard wireless charging pad, despite Qi being used almost universally in the tech industry. Also Apple uses Qi charging for its iPhones and AirPods.

Just not the Apple Watch.

Since the original Apple Watch was released in 201

5, Apple has used one type of charger: a proprietary charging magnetic disk. And while the company allows third-party companies to develop their own versions of Apple’s chargers and integrate them into their products (by paying a license fee, of course, to Apple’s Made for iPhone program), today’s Apple Watch cables they are virtually unchanged since they were released five years ago.

The only real change: the addition of a USB-C variant to the lineup in 2018, although it is not yet the cable that Apple includes in the box, despite the fact that every single Apple laptop supports the port standard for almost all I options. / OR.

The insistence on sticking to its proprietary charger only gets worse when you consider Apple’s environmental messaging. Apple proudly announced at its event that it will no longer include USB wall outlets in its Apple Watch boxes (including Luxury Edition and Hermès models) out of concern over its environmental impact. It is said to be doing the same on this year’s iPhone models.

But if Apple is concerned about the environment, it should also consider the millions of proprietary cables for those products. Apple exclusively used MagSafe chargers and Lightning cables across its entire product line, which can’t be used with anything else. But that too has begun to change: MacBooks and most iPads now use USB-C; iPhones and AirPods (while still stuck on Lightning) offer standard Qi wireless charging. In theory, you can now use a full portfolio of Apple devices without ever touching an Apple charging standard, except for the Apple Watch.

There are difficulties in moving to a new standard. Historically, Apple tends not to like change and enjoys the control it has over peripherals. There are engineering challenges with creating a magnetic charging disc that offers the ease of use of the current one while still supporting Qi pads.

And, of course, there is momentum: millions of people already have Apple Watch chargers, which Apple introduced years before it began adopting the Qi standard, and moving to a new charging standard would mean finding a way to ensure compatibility with the older versions or leave them on.

But none of these are insurmountable problems. Apple changed chargers in a way that completely broke compatibility with years of products when it switched from the 30-pin connector to Lightning. And the customers, somehow, managed to adapt. Changing Apple Watch chargers might also be easier, as there is a much smaller ecosystem of accessories built around the Apple Watch than the iPod / 30-pin connector.

And while yes, there are no engineering doubts, especially since the number of sensors on the back of the Apple Watch continues to grow, they are not insurmountable.

Apple already uses an inductive charging system which is extremely similar to Qi, at least technically. (Such as iFixitshow that Apple cleverly uses a copper disk around the other sensors for the inductive receiver and to prevent interference from the magnet.) John Perzow, VP of Market Development at the Wireless Power Consortium, said in 2015 that Apple is already using modified version of the normal Qi standard for its recharge. It was also reported at one point that the Apple Watch Series 3 works with some Qi pads, although it appears that this is no longer the case. Between the work Apple has already done and the company’s engineering prowess, it doesn’t seem like an impossible task.

But Apple’s insistence on its own standards is becoming increasingly unsustainable, especially as USB-C has begun to effectively unify charging for hardware across nearly every product segment. Apple itself has had to contend with these conflicting standards, with the inability to integrate the Apple Watch reportedly one of the biggest problems with its canceled AirPower charger. Even now, most wireless chargers have been forced to choose between lacking support for the Apple Watch or looking for an awkward way to fit your shoes into a separate Apple charging pad.

But at some point, Apple needs to tear the blindfold and move to an appropriate universal standard. And the longer you wait to do this, the more difficult the transition will be.

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