When Nokia unveiled its new flagship Lumia 920 device last month, it set tongues wagging, not only because it was a rather snazzy handset, but because it included
never-before-seen-on-a-smartphone wireless charging functionality [UPDATE: The Palm Pre anounced this functionality in 2009, thank you Victor]. Once the furore of the launch had died down, many began to consider what this magical new tech could mean for the future of mobile technology, ourselves included. So, if you’re a bit nonplussed as to what it is and where it might rock up on the devices we like to carry around with us, read on…
What is wireless charging?
For those of you who may not be aware, wireless charging (or inductive charging as it’s more technically known) has been around for some time now, but has yet to reach the realms of mainstream mobile. Braun has been using the tech since the nineties in its electric toothbrushes, but it was only at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2009 that wireless charging was seen using a smartphone, on the Palm Pre with its inductive Touchstone charger. Fast forward to 2012 and the tech is still yet to hit the big time, but does seem to be gathering momentum slowly and steadily with its use within the Nokia Lumia 920.
To put it in basic terms, wireless charging is a method of juicing up a device without the need to plug in any cables to an electrical source. Sounds good? Indeed. But you may be asking how the magical technology works.
The proprietary standard of wireless charging tech set by the Wireless Power Consortium (an association made up of various companies with an interest in the technology) is called Qi (pronounced “chee”), and is named after the Chinese concept of ‘energy flow’. It is designed to provide energy to devices via magnetic induction, without the need for wires. To supply the power, a charging unit houses an induction coil which creates an electromagnetic field. The device that needs to be charged also houses a similar coil, which picks up the field and converts the energy into an electric current, which can be used to charge the battery. Clever huh?
At present, the Wireless Power Consortium counts 120 leading manufacturers including Sony, Samsung, Motorola, Huawei, HTC, Nokia amongst its members. With over 8.5 million devices that use the Qi standard for wireless charging, there is definitely a global unity forming, so products from those manufacturers signed up should theoretically be able to share the same charging pads.
With a slew of the major players in mobile choosing to use the Qi standard, devices produced by them which offer wireless charging options should all be able to share means of charging – so no more faffing around trying to find a suitable charger should you need to juice up when out and about. In fact, public wireless charging points are already available in Virgin Atlantic lounges and US coffee shop chain Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and if the trend for charging ‘sans wires’ catches on, we’d expect other big high street names to follow suit, much like many did with the advent of public Wi-Fi services.
As long as the standard is maintained users will ultimately benefit and might well give rise to a situation whereby you walk into a library or bar and are able to sit your phone alongside others by different manufacturers, all of them charging from the same unit. Charging pads could even be built into office desks at work, or furniture at home, so no matter where you dump your phone it can potentially be juicing up. Is the future wireless? With the possibilities brought forth by Qi and the Nokia Lumia 920 setting the trend, we certainly think so.
This guest post was written by Abbi Cox of Phones 4u, the leading destination for greatiPhone 5 deals.