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How to improve your battery life 9 Proven, Tested Tips To Extend Your Android's Battery Life 9 Proven, Tested Tips To Extend Your Android's Battery Life No matter how long your phone's battery life lasts, there are ways that you can definitely make it last longer. Let's take a look at some different ways. Read More is one of the most pressing concerns for all smartphone users. Until our devices offer week-long battery life, charging on the go will remain a reality for us all.

The good news is we may not have to remember to pack our chargers for too much longer.

The era of wireless charging is almost upon us, with airports, car makers and restaurant chains installing charging stations.

galaxy s6 wireless charging

But while the new Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphone Samsung Reveals Edgier Galaxy S6, Lenovo Cuts the Crapware [Tech News Digest] Samsung Reveals Edgier Galaxy S6, Lenovo Cuts the Crapware [Tech News Digest] Samsung gets edgy, Lenovo dumps the crap, HTC Revives Valve, Ikea furniture charges devices, Google saves Blogger porn, and the real-life Batman suit. Read More has been designed to work with all wireless chargers, the picture is not so clear for everyone else, with competing standards holding the technology back.

What is Wireless Charging?

The most common form of wireless charging What Is Wireless Charging & How Exactly Does It Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is Wireless Charging & How Exactly Does It Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] We live in a wireless world. Except we don’t. Sure, we can send huge amounts of information across the airwaves, but the devices capable of sending and receiving it are tied down to power cords.... Read More is often also called inductive charging. It uses an electromagnetic field to transmit energy between two objects — a charging station, attached by wire to a normal power socket, and a device containing a battery and the appropriate wireless charging hardware.

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When the two come into contact, the battery starts charging; charging ends when contact is broken. In the future, charging could potentially occur when they are inches apart or further.

nokia phone charging

The benefits are obvious. There are no wires, no fiddly USB plugs What Is USB Type-C? What Is USB Type-C? Ah, the USB plug. It is as ubiquitous now as it is notorious for never being able to be plugged in right the first time. Read More . It’s also potentially safer — electric toothbrushes have been using inductive charging for years without fear that water and the electrical current are going to come into contact.

Now, it’s moving into smartphones and other mobile devices, and wireless charging is about to go mainstream.

The long term goal is for airports, hotels, coffee shops and more businesses to install charging stations. Instead of having to carry a charger and plug it in, you can simply set your phone on the table to top up the battery.

Before that happens, though, the issue of standards needs to be resolved to ensure that all chargers and devices can work with each other.

Charging Standards

Like all relatively new technologies, wireless charging has several competing — and incompatible — standards.

While it’s not quite as exciting as the VHS versus Betamax battle From Punch Cards to Holograms - A Short History of Data Storage From Punch Cards to Holograms - A Short History of Data Storage Let's take a look at some of the technologies that shaped modern data storage, as well as where we go from here. Read More of the eighties, or Bluray vs HD DVD Blu-Ray Technology History and The DVD [Technology Explained] Blu-Ray Technology History and The DVD [Technology Explained] Read More a decade ago, the outcome will likely be the same: one standard will win, and only then will the technology achieve widespread adoption.

Once the industry settles on a single implementation of wireless charging for mobile devices will we start to see docks installed in airports, hotels, cars and beyond.

mcdonalds restaurant

It isn’t just the tech industry involved in the standards war. As it stands, Qi (pronounced Chee) is the leading standard for consumer use and is being supported by McDonalds, but PMA (from the Power Matters Alliance) offers greater features for businesses, and counts Starbucks among its members.

Qi

Qi is the standard developed by the Wireless Power Consortium, which was founded in 2008 and has over 200 members, including Microsoft, Google, HTC, Sony and Samsung.

qi

Qi is an inductive charging system that uses tightly coiled wires to produce and receive the electromagnetic field. The standard specifies a transfer of around 5W, which is similar to a standard smartphone charger.

The standard produces an efficient transfer of power, but is prone to the misalignment of the coils in the charger unit and receiving device, which in turn can cause compatibility in products that were not explicitly built to work with one another. It also requires one coil on the charging station for each device.

Qi has been adopted to a large extent by Google and Android device manufacturers.

It’s supported in Google’s Nexus smartphones The Evolution of Nexus Devices The Evolution of Nexus Devices The Nexus lineup has come a long way since the Nexus One was first introduced in 2010. Let's take a look at the progress they've made. Read More , LG’s flagship devices including the new G4, and high-end Samsung phones including the Galaxy S6. Windows Phones from Microsoft/Nokia also often support Qi, as do BlackBerry handsets.

ikea charger

Furniture store IKEA has recently announced a range of tables, lamps and other products with integrated Qi charging.

PMA and Rezence

PMA comes from the Power Matters Alliance, founded by Proctor & Gamble and Powermat Technologies in 2012. It has over 60 members, including Samsung, Sony, Motorola and Microsoft.

The PMA standard (sometimes also referred to as Powermat) was also based on inductive charging, but in early 2015 the Alliance announced plans to merge with A4WP, the Alliance for Wireless Power.

rezence-inside-car-full-size

A4WP’s standard, Rezence, uses resonant inductive charging. This also uses the coils approach to electromagnetism, but is more tolerant of coils that aren’t aligned. This means multiple devices can be charged on a single charging pad, and also potentially be charged at distance.

One of the things that makes PMA attractive to businesses is that, unlike Qi, it isn’t anonymous.

PMA assigns a unique ID to every device, giving businesses vital information on where and how you’re using the service. Potentially, it could even be used for marketing purposes, although that doesn’t happen at the moment.

The major downside is that even many big tech brands are member of the Power Matters Alliance the PMA standard currently has very little native support in mobile devices. The Samsung Galaxy S6 does offer it, as did the AT&T version of the LG G3 (all other versions of that device had Qi instead).

starbucks charging

If you want to use PMA charging otherwise, you’ll need add an accessory to your device, normally in the form of a sleeve or dongle that plugs into the charging port, as is the case if you ever use it at Starbucks.

WattUp

Intriguingly, the PMA is also working with a company called Energous, whose WattUp technology uses radio frequencies to transmit power to any device requiring less than 10W (such as smartphones, wearables and headsets) within a 15 feet radius.

energous

Energous is hoping to have products available based on its technology by the end of 2015, or early 2016.

The Future

When it comes to wireless charging, the elephant in the room is Apple. The company is yet to offer wireless charging for its iPhones (the Apple Watch Apple Watch Suffers Planned Obsolescence, Acer Commits to PCs, & More... [Tech News Digest] Apple Watch Suffers Planned Obsolescence, Acer Commits to PCs, & More... [Tech News Digest] Apple enacts planned obsolescence, Acer loves PCs, Valve admits defeat, make video calls through Facebook Messenger, play as a girl in Minecraft, and the five stages of watching Marvel movies. Read More does apparently use inductive charging based on Qi, but is not compatible with other Qi chargers), but it seems only a matter of time.

Apple hasn’t always been keen to adopt standards, much less take part in a standards war. If the company chooses sides it may tip the balance one way or the other, but there’s also a likelihood that it offers its own proprietary solution instead.

For now though, the standards battle will continue. Qi’s greater traction in the consumer market means that it is the one you’re most likely to encounter.

But the relative strengths of competing technologies, as well as those emerging, mean that could yet change before the industry makes its choice.

What are your experiences with wireless charging? Does your smartphone support it, and have you encountered compatibility issues? Let us know in the comments.

Image credits: Nokia phone charging via Herman, McDonalds restaurant via mcdonalds.com, IKEA furniture via ikea.com, Car interior via rezence.com, Starbucks charger via starbucks.com 

  1. Chinmay S
    May 15, 2015 at 11:36 am

    If a wireless charger outputs at 5W and 5 phones are charging simultaneously then each phone will get 5W or 1W? If the latter is true, then phones will barely charge in public places.

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