The Great Idea of Wireless Charging Still Struggles

    In many cases, we do things or face situations that are incredibly inefficient without thinking about them. That’s human nature. Once a new approach is available, folks turn to each other and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

    One of those inefficiencies is giving way. It’s happening too slowly, but progress is being made. Remote devices increasingly are using wireless charging. The benefits are obvious: the manufacture and temporary use of the billions of wired charging cables is environmentally unsound, to say the least. The cables are continually getting lost. In my case, I am certain that the cables have a mind of their own and hide.

    GigaOm on Monday posted a story describing the release of the Nexus 4 Wireless Charging Orb. The goofily named device carries a $59 price tag:

    The angled orb must be plugged into a standard outlet for charging to work. So the wireless part has to do with the Nexus 4 itself. Placing the phone on the charging pad will fully re-charge the phone’s battery in four hours. There are no additional features on the orb itself; it simply lets you put your phone down and top off or refill the integrated battery.

    It is clear that progress is being made – and the industry has a long way to go. In the story, writer Kevin Tofel points out that there are various standards in this realm and that products are not interchangeable. Of course, until that step is taken, the key benefit – eliminating inefficiency – doesn’t kick in. That, coupled with the extra cost, is a deal breaker.

    Qi, which is a product of the Wireless Power Consortium, seems to be the leading standard. Earlier this week, the consortium offered a typical pre-show release outlining what will be at the Mobile World Congress later this month in Barcelona. The boilerplate paints a pretty picture. It says that the WPC has more than 130 members from several industry segments. It notes that some of the biggest names in telecom and IT – Energizer, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Verizon Wireless and Texas Instruments among them – are members. More than 15 million devices available in the United States, Asia-Pacific and Europe are Qi-compatible.

    This week, Engadget posted some pictures of a Samsung-built, Qi-compatible charging plate. The photos were posted by The Federal Communications Commission.

    However, Qi is mentioned in only one of the six phones, CNET’s Lynn La highlights in a piece on the leading wireless charging phones. That doesn’t mean that the others don’t use Qi, but it seems likely that if she mentioned in one capsule she would have in the others as well. The phones are the Nokia Lumina 920 (on the AT&T network), the HTC Droid DNA (Verizon Wireless), the LG Nexus 4 (T-Mobile), the Nokia Lumia 822 (Verizon Wireless), the HTC Windows Phone 8X (AT&T) and the LG Spectrum 2 (Verizon Wireless). Qi is used in the HTC Windows Phone 8X. The post has links to full reviews of each of the phones.

    The Engadet piece calls Qi the de facto standard, but suggests Samsung is working on its own technology. The bottom line is that the meeting of efforts to make life easy for consumers and the PR value of going green will drive standards in this area. So far, however, things don’t seem to be moving at the speed of wireless power.

    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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