Why has wireless charging not been widely adopted?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: October 30, 2011

One of the most important aspects of a smartphone is battery life. While our phones are charged and working, we are more connected and capable than ever before, especially while on the go. However, if your phone cannot last from morning until dinner time, it's no more useful to you than a paperweight by 6 PM. Phones are our lifelines and a dead phone could make you miss the most important business call of your life ... or worse.

I have been using the Amaze 4G for several days now alongside my iPhone 4S. Although the 4S has a little more stamina than the Amaze, neither are particularly great when it comes to battery life. No current smartphone is. Most are lucky to make it through the day on light to moderate use. And these two particular phones are making me revisit just how much I hate proprietary chargers and poor battery life.

There are several ways you can prolong your battery life, either by tweaking software, giving the battery a nice conditioning and calibration a couple times per month or by carrying spare batteries or extended – if you don't have an iPhone, that is. Additionally, there are cases such as the mophie juice pack plus that will give your phone an extra boost. But nothing outdoes plugging your phone in and giving it a nice, long charge.

The problem is, there are not always openly available wall outlets or USB ports for me to tap in to. On top of that, I do not – nor do I want to – carry cables and USB adapters everywhere I go. And carrying around a three-pound mobile juice pack everywhere I go is not an option either.

Simply put, phones should be able to last longer than eight hours on a charge, even with nonstop, heavy usage. But manufacturers have managed to cram more power into our pocket-sized computers than we ever could have imagined just a few years ago, and battery life has been placed on the back burner. Newer, more efficient and safe technologies are being developed, but manufacturing procedures and costs of such products nor performance are effective or cheap enough to use in cell phones just yet.

So what's the solution? Wireless charging.

You may recall the company Powermat. Just two years ago, they introduced a new wireless charging solution for mobile phones. You had to buy the wireless charging mat, which now comes in several different forms, and cases for all of the devices you wanted to charge. The first problem with Powermat's solution is price. By the time you purchase one case and one mat, you are nearing $100. And the usefulness of said "solution" was limited. You could only wirelessly charge wherever a Powermat was available. Otherwise, you would have to take the proprietary case off of the phone to charge via standard cables.

On top of all of this, the officially supported phones were extremely limited. A few BlackBerry models and the iPhone 3G/3GS/4 were supported. For other phones, you had to purchase a microUSB adapter, which clearly defeated the purpose of "wireless charging." Since it would be almost impossible to produce cases for every Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone device out there, they regrouped and had planned on launching aftermarket inductive batteries instead of cases.

In short, Powermat had a fantastic idea. But it was poorly executed and it wasn't entirely their fault – cell phone manufacturers all have a different way of doing things and are not "standardized" nearly enough. Nearly every phone out there uses a different capacity and shaped battery, microUSB ports are almost always in a different location per device and so on and so forth.

That said, there is a fix to this that would give companies like Powermat (they're not the only ones who have tried and failed at wireless charging) a breath of fresh air. It all starts with the cell phone manufacturers, and it would require very minimal work. All they would have to do is produce batteries capable of inductive charging or create battery doors with inductive receivers. It's that simple. Companies like Powermat and Energizer could partner with said OEMs and begin to produce phones that are capable of wirelessly charging out-of-box. All the customer would have to do is provide the wireless charging mat.

With wide support for something like this, it is possible that "refueling mats" would begin to pop up around cities, inside cars trains and buses ... everywhere. It could make battery life issues a thing of the past without ever having to actually improve battery life.

It's is a rather far-fetched idea of mine that will likely never come to fruition, but it is totally doable and something I seriously wish OEMs would take into consideration. Plugging your phone in several thousand times through its life only wears the ports and chargers out. Wireless charging would only wear the battery out, which will happen anyway. Wireless charging is where I believe things are headed, and OEMs are the reason it never succeeded the first few times it was attempted.

What say you, readers? Do you like the idea of wireless charging? Have you been wondering where all that initial promise went? Do you wish OEMs would standardize things a little more and open up to things such as inductive charging as the standard means of charging?

Image via The Washington Post

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