How Wireless Charging Works

May 22, 2012

    If you’re like me, you find having to plug in your phone to charge it quite annoying. After all, we now live in a wireless world. What could be more cumbersome than having your phone plugged into the wall half the day?

    Wireless charging isn’t new, for example Palm (R.I.P) and HP made their Touchstone wireless charging system available for their webOS devices. It just hasn’t quite caught yet, but we’ll get into the reason for that later. The good news is that wireless charging looks like it may soon become more main stream, and one sign of this is that the much-anticipated Samsung Galaxy S3 is expected to have a wireless charging option.

    Inductive Charging Explained

    So, just how does this newfangled wireless charging work? First of all, the method of wireless charging used for smartphones is called inductive charging. This method of wireless charging harnesses the ability of using an electromagnetic field to transfer energy over a short distance via a transmitter (charger) and receiver (phone). Just set your phone down on the transmitter and your phone starts charging. Sounds pretty awesome, right?

    Right now the technology only allows for the energy to be transmitted over a few millimeters. While this means we won’t be gleefully prancing around the house, phone in hand, chanting “my phone is charging, my phone is charging,” at least we’ll no longer have to deal with those pesky wires.

    Wireless Charging Standard

    If you’re wondering why wireless smartphone charging has yet to catch on, the reason is probably due to no standard being set. As a result all wireless charging devices, such as the aforementioned Touchstone, had to be created with proprietary devices and accessories. Fortunately, the Wireless Power Consortium has stepped in to save the day with Qi (pronounced ‘chee’), a set of industry guidelines for inductive charging. So far Qi has the backing of 84 device manufacturers and carriers. With a standard in place, we should expect to see faster development and improvement in the technology because companies won’t feel the need to re-invent the wheel if they decide to jump into the business.

    As you can imagine, the possibilities for wireless charging are endless, and go beyond just the smartphone market. For now though, let’s just be excited that the need of wired phone charging becomes a thing of the past.

    I’m obviously looking forward to it, but I’m curious as to what our readers think about wireless charging. Do you wish it was already more common? Would you use it if you had the option?

    Comments

    • Seb85

      At this point its not really wireless since it need to be on the charger … only making us save a second by not plugging it but still need to think about the charge …

      • Mark

        I have the issue that I forget it’s on the charger when it rings and just pick the phone up and end up ripping it from the charger, this would solve that problem for me. Wouldn’t like the wireless charge to be over a greater distance – what effect would it have on us?

      • beanbag38

        and also saving wear and tear on our phones.. I’ve had a couple of phones in the past where the micro usb port has become loose or unreliable because of excessive plugging in/out of the cable.. Also wireless is a much better option then using those useless charging docks that never seem easy to connect the phone to..

    • http://mobilezfun.com/ Mobilezfun

      Good article to explain how wireless charging. Thanks for you good one.

    • http://www.prefertablets.com/ Prefer Tablets

      I liked your article a lot. Thanks

    • Housprogmusic

      I would definitely use this technology !!
      I wish i was already more common ! Thanks to the galaxy s3 for introducing this technology to buisness market !!:D btw nice article !!

    • GSUSHC

      I have an electric Philips Sonicare toothbrush that has wireless charging for an extremely long time now, so for me this is no revelation!

      • m8

        But for what I know it’s a completly different technology. Wireless toothbrushes like yours are charged by conecting in a dock where electric contacts both in the toothbrush and in the dock are touching. The technology used in the Galaxy S3 doesn’t need to be connected in a specific position nor it need to be touching the dock at all (if it is close enough). The later opens a whole new world of possibilities as it will continuously develop.

        • wonshikee

          No, they are done inductively as well. The toothbrush is completely sealed – how could you have metal contacts expose on a device that can get wet?

        • Gusgrandison

          wonshikee is correct about the way my toothbrush charges, in fact it will stop the brushing mode and start the charging mode about 1.5 inches from the charger and will charge at any position as long as the bottom of the brush is near to the base (just like the Samsung wireless charger).

          I have the samsung on order for 1st June, when I get it I will see if it charges with my toothbrush charger and if it does It would be very strange indeed because my toothbrush is about 5 years old!

    • Ann

      GREAT idea,
      but that the energy can only be transmitted over few mm is sad.

      That’s not really an improvement to the charging by wire.

      But thanks for explaining, i heard a lot about ‘wireless charging,
      but didn’t understand till today. :)
      greets, Ann

      • http://twitter.com/Shea_Dog Shea Harris

        Thanks for the input! It would be nice to be able to be able to move around a bit with the phone while charging, but for me the benefit is in no cables. Sometimes the phone is awkward to hold or lay down in a certain position when plugged in, and sometimes you forget it’s plugged in and the cable gets ripped out, which can damage the USB port.

        • Ann

          what if i got an induction cooker? is it able to charge my phone too? :P or will it be broken after cooking?

    • Jaysann22

      I’m curious if there have been any medical studies on this technology to test for any possible health hazards….

      • http://twitter.com/Shea_Dog Shea Harris

        Great question! Qi has guidelines in place to make sure we won’t be subjected to harmful amounts of radiation or ionization. There’s no evidence any harm can come to anyone as long as Qi standards are followed.

      • julian

        it’s harmless:
        this technic is used for induction cooking
        cooking via induction makes much more magnetic radiation and the magnetic radiation is what charges your phone :) (the magnetic radiation is like a magnet turning on and off. then an iron coil inside the phone gets activated and electrons get free. :) elektrons=power
        im sorry for the bad grammar and maybe wrong words.
        julian

    • http://webweenie.blogspot.com/ Stephen A.

      Find it hard to wrap your head around this too? ;-D

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Newton/100000478773725 Kevin Newton

      Inductive charging has been increased from 5 mm to 40 mm recently … http://www.engadget.com/2012/04/20/wpc-updates-qi-standard-increasing-inductive-charging-distance/ … so hopefully, in the near future, we will see “proximity charging”. Maybe proximity pads installed on the walls in each room of the house, and the phone uses them as we walk by …. that would be so good.

    • Hein.

      I have a Samsung Droid which is wireless charging (Qi enabled) already for quite a while. So nothing new here. I wish for the new S3 being Qi compliant as then I can easily update to an S3 without needing to buy new chargers which I have both at home and in my car.

    • tsoob

      thank tesla for his inventions wish were stolen by the US Government… Old technology, stolen, hidden, redistributed to private corporationsa and rebranded as new…

    • chris

      the idea is great but apart from charging electrical cars this will not exceed the gadget level. The technology simply is too dependant on alignment of the two charging components. If one would like strong chatging magnetic fields needed will exceed health acceptable levels. We still have a long way to go here.

    • PhoneAddict123

      I don’t think it’s useful. Yeah, it may be “WIRELESS” but only by a few MILLIMETERS!?!! I mean, If I have a wired charger, I could still use the phone WHILE charging. They should invent something like, 1 week long battery or something. That would be more useful.

    • beanbag38

      I don’t understand why wireless charging hasn’t become more mainstream by now. the technology is there and has been for some time. there’s nothing worse then having to connect a cable to yr phone every day (sometimes 2 or 3 times), especially for the latest smartphones which need charging more regularly. This type of technology should be built-in to mobile phones as a standard and I think would be a high selling point for anyone considering upgrading their smartphone or anyone who’s new to the smartphone world.. I’m getting a samsung galaxy s3 soon, and when the wireless charging kit becomes available (should be september) it will be a high priority accessory for me..

    • Slade

      Surely the problem of using induction charging will be the bulk or weight of the charger relative to current wired chargers. This will be especially noticed when traveling away from home.

    • David M. H.

      The charging base sill has to be connected to a power outlet, right? So since you can’t make practical use of the phone over “a few millimeters”, as this article points out, it doesn’t ruin my day to connect a phone by a wire to an outlet or a usb port on a computer. At least if I’m charging my phone over the wire on my laptop, I get better mobility than what you would get from a wireless charger. Wireless charging is just more bells and whistles that are still not quite practical yet. Let me know when we’re charging our phone wirelessly from anywhere in our home; and I will think better of it. I’m not talking about solar charging either.

    • Thomas The Tanked Engine

      Those who commented this is stupid, useless etc. First off why are you reading an article on it. Second, any advances in technology is awesome. Enjoying your abacus? Third, I would use this for charging overnight. I have both having to plug it in when going sleepy time, and then half awake trying to turn off the alarm and unplug it.

      Don’t like it, don’t use it, ignore it and go away.

    • Souheil Hmida

      I’m really looking forward to get the new Google wireless charger ( you know the Google wireless charging Orb, or whatever it’s name is !! ) probably the same time or maybe just a week after getting the new LG Nexus 4 !!! 2 more weeks to wait

    • Tom Teton

      Just had to make note, the GM EV1 electric vehicle, leased back in the late 90′s used inductive charging to charge the 26 lead acid batteries.

    • katline hunt

      Just found this cool wireless charger for my daughter at a deep discount on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1iyFZfq – Couldn’t believe my luck, check it out before they take the promotion down.

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