The Ins and Outs of Wireless Charging Technology

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February 9, 2016      No Comments

 

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Wireless charging technology has taken the world by storm in recent years.  The thought of eliminating the need for wires to charge your devices is alluring to many, and forward-looking companies have been quick to respond, offering a variety of products that can help you begin your divorce from wired charging.

While wireless charging for Smartphones is a fairly new concept, wireless charging itself has been around longer than many things, and in areas you may not even realize.  The technical term for this method of charging is “inductive charging.”  This method of charging your battery relies on an electromagnetic field, provided by one or more electric coils inside the wireless charger.  The coil inside the device being charged will transfer the energy from the coil in the charging pad into the battery.  

So, where have you seen this before?  Well, toothbrushes, for one.  Specifically, Braun electric toothbrushes, which have featured their own proprietary wireless charging since the late 1990’s.  Those electric toothbrushes that magically recharge as they sit in what appears to be a plastic slot?  Yes, those are utilizing inductive charging, and have been for almost 20 years now.

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Even further back, and perhaps even more impressive, was the use of inductive charging by General Motors on their 1996 EV1 electric vehicle.  It was the first mass produced electric vehicle in the United States, and was available for 3 years and lauded by many until GM terminated the program.  The EV1 was a car powered by an electric motor, which relied on a large battery.  General Motors included something called the Magne Charge with these vehicles; a wireless charging system for the car.  The company wanted a charger that was capable of safe use in rainy and wet conditions, and inductive charging allowed them to accomplish this goal.  The Magne Charge system meant that no direct electrical connection needed to be made, and electrical components could be weatherproofed for use in adverse conditions.

What does that have to do with smartphones, tablets, and today’s devices?  Well, this technology has now made its way into the consumer electronics space, and it is quickly growing in popularity, seizing demand for a less cluttered lifestyle.  Many smartphones come with wireless charging capabilities built-in,  Such popular phones include the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Note5, as well as the Moto 360.  In addition to devices that come pre-loaded with this capability, an entire aftermarket industry of add-on wireless adapters and cases have emerged, giving almost any smartphone the ability to charge without wires.  Currently, to ensure compatibility across a wide range of products, most wireless charging conforms to what is called the “Qi Standard.”  The idea behind this is that any Qi compliant device or receiver will work with any Qi compliant charger.

Sounds too good to be true.  

Are there sacrifices?

When wireless charging first developed in the mobile device world, it was largely at a very slow charging speed.  Most earlier-generation products debuted with only 650mA of charging power, compared with your average 1A wall charger included with your device. It was 35% slower.  However, the good news is that the technology has evolved very much, and so has that speed.  Many Qi receivers and chargers, including all MobilePal’s products, now support 1A charging. This is on par with many wired charging methods.  And it won’t stop there.  Already, Samsung has released a “Fast Wireless Charge” version of their wireless charging pad, which charges the Samsung Galaxy Note5 at around 9V and 1.5A, equal in speed to a high quality wired wall charger. This represents a major step forward in wireless charging speed. With the recent evolutions, wireless charging speeds have matched wired charging speeds.

Is it just about eliminating messy wires?

No, there is actually a very practical reason for wireless charging: durability. The stress of constantly inserting and removing a charging plug, whether it is a micro-USB or a Lightning cable, can eventually damage your phone, require expensive repairs or even replacement. Given all the wireless technology already available for data transfer, charging is really the last hurdle for removing this unnecessary stress from your expensive hardware.

 

3-coil-hand-wholeWireless charging pads can be placed in a variety of locations in your home.  Rather than having to be in the same room with your charger, or carry it around with you, a wireless charging pad can be placed anywhere you spend time.  You can just place the phone on the pad to charge, and quickly pick it up if you need to use it. With today’s demanding smartphones, it’s important to have versatile and convenient charging options.

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