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Apple's decision to add wireless charging reveals a huge weakness with all current Apple products

Kif Leswing

One of the most important features on the new iPhones is wireless charging.

What that means is that instead of plugging your iPhone 8, you can place it on a charging pad.

It looks like this:

Mophie wireless charging base

This has lots of people asking: Why is wireless charging a big deal?

Palm and Android smartphones have had wireless charging since 2009 -- the new iPhones actually work with Samsung wireless chargers. Wireless charging, however, powers up your phone significantly slower than being plugged in. I've used Qi wireless charging before, the same technology Apple's using, and I wasn't impressed.

I believe Apple is pushing wireless charging because it recognises a major user-experience issue has cropped up: People have too many Apple products to charge.

Consider Apple's core customer: say, a relatively wealthy American who owns an iPhone, loves their Apple Watch, and uses Apple's nifty wireless AirPods as headphones. Apple execs like CEO Tim Cook or software engineering head Craig Federighi fit right into this mould.

Now imagine their nightstand. It's positively covered with various cords because Apple's products need a top-up daily -- at least one for an iPhone and a separate one for the Apple Watch, and don't forget to plug in your headphones or you could be stuck without a way to listen to music. And that's not counting their iPad or laptop.

That's a mess, it's inelegant, and Apple's top leadership faces it every night. Apple's reputation is built on it delivering an excellent user experience, and that experience now involves desks covered with Apple's iconic white cords.

Maybe that's why Apple preannounced a wireless charger that seems designed to solve this exact issue, though it has no release date more specific than "next year," and reports from Apple's factories suggest the product is not close to mass production.

AirPower

Apple's promotional image for its AirPower wireless charger shows a mat charging AirPods, an Apple Watch, and an iPhone all at the same time. That's where Apple will innovate, and that's its concept for the product: charging multiple things. Just throw your Apple gadgets on the pad.

Perhaps in the future, Apple will expand the concept to the desk, too, so you could charge your mouse, keyboard, or Apple TV remote.

Apple is primarily a hardware company that has built its reputation on having the best user experience, with software and hardware that sweats the little things and works together seamlessly. Right now, for reasons out of Apple's control -- the limitations of battery science, the growth of wearables -- that user experience now involves cords everywhere.

Apple sees a way to distinguish itself by making wireless power that works together with other Apple products. So wireless charging on the iPhone 8 isn't about convenience today, especially with its limitations -- it's about creating a new competitive advantage in the future.