On Tuesday afternoon, Apple held its latest major event, unveiling the new iPhone 8. It was a decidedly iPhone-heavy event, appropriately so given that 2017 marks a full decade since the original iPhone's release. And one dynamic new feature, which has generated lots of rumors leading up to the big reveal, has plenty of current iPhone users wondering: can you charge your iPhone 7 wirelessly? Or will that feature be exclusive to the new models?
The answer, in short and sweet terms, is that it all depends on whether the latest iOS updates rolled out by Apple enable that ability on the older phone units. Once the new ones hit the market, the iPhone 7 will effectively be not just one, but two generations old, trailing both the 8 and the new iPhone X. As such, it can be a tricky thing predicting precisely what features will continue to be supported through updates.
But if you're an iPhone 7 owner, there were good reasons for optimism even before the announcement. For starters, the iPhone 7 can already sort of charge wirelessly, although not in the strictest or purest sense of the word. For instance, it can charge through those Powermat pads present at some Starbucks locations, free from wires although still requiring physical contact with a station.
This requires that you have the appropriate accessories, however ― a compatible charging case, for example ― which means it's not nearly as convenient as simply having the technology built-in. Also, given that it still requires physical contact with a charging pad, some would argue it doesn't truly meet the definition of wireless.
So, did Apple answer this question during its Tuesday afternoon event? The answer, sad to say, is not really. While it's entirely possible more information could be right around the corner, the reality is that this question went basically unaddressed in the swirl of all the latest iPhone 8 details. Hopefully it'll be revisited in the near future, given the large number of people who already own an iPhone 7, and aren't keen to drop the hundreds of dollars needed to secure one of the newest ones.
As it stands now, according to the keynote, the new iPhone 8's wireless charging system will work through third-party charging platforms, in particular those produced by Qi. Apple is reportedly expected to release its own wireless charging platform at some point in the coming months, although exact details remain unclear. In simple terms, however, if you're an iPhone 7 user who wants wireless charging, that's an option that's open to you ― it just doesn't come native to the phone, but instead requires additional accessory purchases.
None of this will matter immediately, to be clear. As reports suggested in the run-up to the big day, Apple is announcing this new functionality a little bit ahead of it actually being a reality ― its own charging pad isn't yet ready for release, although some third-party ones will be supported. This is an example of Apple rolling out a feature that's been around in some form for years, and doing so with a big splash, much in the same fashion as when it was late to the game in enabling wifi calling for the iPhone 6 generation.
It remains to be seen just how popular the new charging system will be. In the past, wireless charging has taken longer than traditional cord charging, but presumably that's something Apple will strive to improve on as the technology becomes more advanced.