Wireless charging – get amongst it

Wireless charging has been around for quite some time, but for some reason, few of us are using it.

Numerous companies, like Qi, PMA, and New Zealand’s own PowerbyProxi, have created clever devices that all aim to eliminate charging cables. They work safely and reliably, but due to a lack of media coverage and “glitz and glamour,” they’re not as popular as they should be. We’ve outlined a little about wireless charging here, as well as where you can pick up the latest devices.

Most of us remember how, in science class when back when we were 7 or 8, the teacher wrapped a coil around a core, ran current through it, and made an electro-magnet. Inductive charging works essentially in the same way.

The base device, often called a pad or mat, has a glorified coil inside of it. When current is run through the coil, an electromagnetic field appears on top of the mat. The device will also have a wire coil inside it. Some are included as part of the device’s battery, while others are embedded within a case. When the coil in the device enters the electromagnetic field from the mat, the fluctuations in magnetism cause electrons to flow through the coil, which charges the device’s battery.

Inductive charging in cars

This technology is not new. In fact, some electric car prototypes implemented inductive charging in 1998, but the systems they used were later discontinued. The first real consumer-orientated, built-in wireless charging pad for vehicles came in  2011, when Chevrolet Volts began featuring Powermats in the centre console. Users simply set their phone down on the mat while driving, and it began automatically charging. Those same cars also featured bluetooth connectivity, essentially eliminating the need for wires and chords to be used within the vehicle.

Other vehicle manufacturers have boarded the inductive charging train too. The all new 2014 Toyota Avalon sports a durable Qi phone charger in the phone cubby just above the gear shifter. Korean automobile manufacturer SsangYong offers wireless charging consoles as an upgrade, and Dodge and Jeep also offer cars with inductive charging pads.

If you’re happy with the car you’re in, there are DIY options available. According to reviews, the best one so far is called Air Dock. The company launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, raised more than twice than their goal, and will begin shipping kits in May, 2014. Another highly rated Qi wireless charging device is the ZENS, which can be purchased here.

Phones

TechRadar reported that, as of early this year, over 60 phones come with wireless charging capabilities out of the box. Samsung’s Galaxy S5 can be plopped on a Qi charging pad, and it’ll begin charging. Most of Nokia’s newer phones are able to be wirelessly charged, and practically all higher-end Android phones released within the last year have the feature. A full list can be found here.

The iPhone does NOT have built-in wireless charging capabilities, and the battery can not be removed and replaced with an inductive-enabled one. Moreover, it does not seem as if Apple will make any effort to bring wireless charging to its devices. Fortunately, there are stylish cases that can be snapped onto the phone that will enable it to be wirelessly charged.

For $105 USD ($120 NZD), CHEOTECH will provide you with a charging pad and an inductive case for your iPhone 5/5s. Cases for older phones can be bought for under $20, and will work on the same charging pad.

Summary

Some say that wireless charging tech will not take off. They say that it will be like the QR code, with everyone trying to make it work while pretending that it’s going to one day take off. Those people argue that it will never go mainstream until it works at a distance of more than a few inches, and the consumer is educated. We’d say those people are right, for the most part.

There is also a very strong argument supporting the notion that wireless charging is about to go off with a bang. Right now, almost every phone has a different type of connector. Other than the new iPhones, most chargers can only go in one way, and carrying around USB adaptors for AC and DC is cumbersome. Imagine walking into any place or going into any car, putting any mobile device on the mat, and having it begin charging.

I think it’s just a matter of time before trend setters get behind this and some marketing dollars get thrown at it.

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