Wireless Charging: everything you need to know
2015 is already shaping up to be the year that wireless charging will sky rocket. It is beginning to pop up all over the place, and before long, it’ll be in your home, in your office, on your trains, on your planes and in your automobiles.. But let’s be honest, whilst it seems like a black magic art, there must be some science behind it? We thought we’d try and do a ‘masked magician’ (I wonder what happened to that guy?) and reveal all so you can stay one step ahead of the game.
We’re not scientists, and odds are, neither are you, so we’ll keep this as jargon free and as simple to understand as possible without patronising anyone. Wireless charging uses two resonant inductive couplings to transmit low-power signals between two components. A charging dock or mat has a coil in it that is constantly sending out a signal, and when it gets a response from the coil in your device, because they are close enough, the signal changes. The coils use magnetism and vibrations to send electricity by completing the circuit over the signal, this then goes into your devices’ battery. Magic no more!
Just like with Apple and their frustratingly different charging cables, there isn’t just one kind of wireless charging. Whilst the majority of the tech world have focused on the Qi standard that you’ll find in most phones, Power Mat have another standard that is popular in the US. They use the same science, but different signals. Pop your Qi phone on a Power Mat and nothing will happen, unless your phone manufacturer thought ahead, like the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, which have both standards built in.
Why should you care?
Firstly, anyone that has multiple devices can know what a pain it is with cable management – especially if they use different chargers (again, Apple, I’m looking at you). You can clear away the clutter and also prevent that horrific instance where you might trip over your cable, or absent mindedly pick up your phone and yank the cable out the wall – we’ve all done it.
Secondly, there is the huge convenience factor.
Wireless charging isn’t faster or more efficient than the regular cable method. It may even cost a little bit more. However, if you have a few charging mats, they can be a game changer. On a side note, Qi mats are universal and can cost less than £6. Once you have these dotted about the place where you might normally set your phone down, like your bedside table, desk at work, dining table, or car, then you are constantly charging without realising. Days where your phone might dip below 50% will be few and far between. Since so many people are scared of running out of battery juice, this is a really wonderful thing.
Batteries aren’t what they used to be
Or are they? Phone are getting better. Displays are more dense with better resolution and depth of colour. The chipsets are getting more powerful, requiring more RAM. The camera functions are more complex and developed than ever before, offering 4k video and raw pictures. Every time a phone gets better, it takes a heavier toll on battery life. Unfortunately, however, battery development has stagnated from a consumer point of view. The batteries in our phones now have barely changed over the last 3 to 4 years. Noticed your battery dies by the end of every day, regardless of what you’re doing with your phone? Well, that may only be set to get worse. Wireless charging could be the answer to the problem.
It’s getting better
Those tech developers almost never sit still. Wireless charging is getting better every year too. Most of the flagship phones released this year have a Quick Charge feature, which can speedily fill up 60% of the battery in 30 minutes with a wired connection. The Wireless Power Consortium, the chaps behind Qi, have stated that the latest standards in wireless charging will be able to do just the same very soon.
It’s going places
By going places, we mean its being put in convenient locations right under your nose already. Whilst it might not be in your home just yet, it is already in your coffee shops. Starbucks in the US have Powermats in place, and recently in the UK have been putting mats in place in their London locations. Interestingly, these are universal mats, allowing an adapter to be plugged into the phone, which can be popped into place. McDonalds are also hot on Starbuck’s heels with powermats in some of their locations too. Ikea have already realised the potential game changer that wireless charging represents, and only a few months ago announced they’d be releasing some furniture with embedded Qi chargers, including side tables and some shelves on their lamps.
What can you do now?
You can get yourself one, two or however many wireless chargers you want! Its not like you have to wait for it to become more commercialised, since you can buy mats for next to nothing. If your phone doesn’t come with a wireless coil you can buy an insert or an adapter case. What is important though, is that you match the right mat and standard to your phone or case, or if you are changing phones, you take into account which standard you have invested in.
The Power Matters Alliance have big names like Starbucks, AT&T, P&G, Intel, McDonalds, Samsung and Asus backing them. On the flip side, Wireless Power Consortium have over 70+ supported phones out there, and are partnered with LG, Nokia, Samsung, Toshiba, Panasonic, Philips, Qualcomm and Ikea. It is a war, in a way, that only one side will win, but right now it is anybody’s guess as to who… We guess Qi. Some people are hedging their bets, with LG and Samsung using both standards in various products.