The Impact of Waste Reduction on the Portable Charger Market

By Ryan Sanderson, IHS



Ryan Sanderson, IHS

Making portable electronic devices easier to use, but with greater functionality and a smaller footprint, are consumer-driven features which often lead to developments in the market. Those demands often result in challenges in electronics design. Increasing pressure for power hungry functions at a footprint, which allows for little increase in battery size, has resulted in the need for more frequent charging. This has led to concerns and demands regarding efficiency and waste. The largest amount of waste is generated from the use of proprietary chargers for cell phones and other portable electronic devices. Usually when a device is replaced, the charger for the previous device becomes redundant. With close to 1.5 billion cell phones forecast to ship in 2013, the amount of waste generated is colossal. An initiative to solve this issue for cell phone chargers with a universal charging solution (UCS) is being driven by the GSM Association (GSMA) and a group of leading mobile operators. This wired charging solution uses a micro USB connector with the aim that the charger will be cross-compatible across different handset models, and eventually remove the need for a new charger to ship with each handset. By the end of 2012, a majority of handsets had adopted micro USB as a common connector, though no operators have yet removed the charger from new handset shipments. Despite this, IHS believes that the initiative will drive a decline in the percentage of new handsets shipped with a charger to just 40% in 2017, resulting in a decline in the cell phone charger market of $700 million compared with the market 2013. At the end of October 2012 the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) also announced a new Universal Power Adapter (UPA) standard, aimed at home communications equipment such as modems, set-top boxes, home networking equipment and fixed telephones. The similar initiative also aims to cut down waste by reducing the number of redundant chargers. With traditional markets projected to experience large declines, charger manufacturers are looking for new opportunities. For some the solution has been as simple (in concept) as removing the wires. Wireless charging, in particular inductive charging, is starting to become more popular. Samsung, Nokia and HTC have all released or announced handset models with wireless charging built in. Apple announced earlier this year that its iPad 5 will contain wireless charging capability via a protective cover and Toyota and Jeep have also announced that 2014 models will contain built-in wireless charging options. IHS projects that the number of wireless power transmitters (chargers) shipped will grow to more than 200 million in 2017, driving a market of $5 billion. Ironically, wireless charging is actually less efficient than charging via a wire, though the solutions from wireless power and charging manufacturers are not only to provide a convenient method for consumers to charge portable electronics at regular intervals, but to also provide a universal solution that is compatible with many different devices, which therefore would not require their own proprietary charger. Whilst the initiatives and technologies to reduce waste caused by adapters and chargers seem sensible, it's clear that no reduction is possible until manufacturers remove the proprietary chargers from the box! IHS