One of the worst feelings is to look down at your phone and be greeted with the "Please connect charger" warning prompt. For many of us, our phones are our lifelines, providing us with a constant connection with the online world, our closest friends and family and the wealth of knowledge behind Wikipedia or a quick Google search. But without a charge to keep the phone up and running throughout the day, we are sent back to the dark ages, to the pre-smartphone era.
And that's a scary place.
Battery life has taken a hit over the last few years as smartphones have effectively transformed from pocket-sized email devices to truly powerful, computing machines capable of handling most of our day to day needs. While the internal components have gotten progressively better, faster and more power-hungry, battery technology has remained mostly stagnant, leaving OEMs to make a tough decision: beauty, more power or somewhere in between.
With the right care and moderation, most of the smartphones of today can last through at least most of the day – at least long enough to last between the home and office or until you can find an unoccupied outlet. There are also solutions like different battery packs, extended batteries and even backpacks with a charge that offer a supplementary charge that can help smartphone users make it through a day.
Plugging in every couple hours, however, is neither ideal, convenient or what we should expect out of the pocket-sized device we paid a couple hundred dollars on (along with signing two years of our lives away with a wireless provider). But the larger problems are wearing out the ports on your device substantially faster by plugging it in several times per day, feeling as if you're being physically tied to the closest power supply and having to carry around extra baggage (i.e.: spare batteries, AC adapter and USB cable, etc.) just to keep your phone charged on the go.
Back in 2009, Powermat entered the scene aiming to resolve that by introducing a realistic and feasible way to keep your mobile devices charged without needing cables. Needless to say, Powermat faced very limited success due to overpriced equipment, only launching for a select few devices and not quite meeting expectations. Their cause was noble and they had the right idea. They just missed the mark a bit.
I took a few minutes to talk to Powermat at CES earlier this month, and while they didn't have much else to look at beyond a few working concepts (like the home phone charging cradle concept pictured above) and a suggestion board for attendees to provide feedback on where they would like to see Powermat's products, what they have planned for the future could be quite nice.
For example, they're in talks with automotive manufacturer, GM, trying to fit future cars with wireless inductive pads on the console between the seats. They also had several pieces of conceptual charging furniture – like a kid's toy box with an inductive bottom that would charge inductive battery-powered toys and a Powermat lamp that we've seen before – on display at their booth. However, most of this is old news, nothing we haven't heard before or thought of ourselves.
What I'm more interested in, though, is what wireless charging would, could and should be like by now if more people had given it the consideration it deserved. Why haven't we seen more of this by now?
Imagine if Powermat partnered with specific (or all) mobile manufacturers, who would then fit devices with Powermat inductive batteries before they ever left the packaging factory. Pair that with a GM car, inductive home or office furniture, or public Powermat refueling stations and you've almost entirely removed the need for a pesky AC adapter. Nice, huh?
The sad part is that none of this would be terribly difficult to do on a large scale. Powermat, at one point, stated that their original plan to offer battery doors and cases wasn't as efficient as they had originally hoped, and replacing the battery with one of their own Powerpack would make more sense. GM cars with Powermat charging solutions included should arrive sometime towards the second-half of this year. And it doesn't seem as if creating a plethora of furniture with built-in inductive charging would garner too many hurdles.
Despite all of this from one company, we're still tethered to the wall when we need some extra juice. It's 2012. I expected more companies to invest in this wireless trend. By now, I was hoping I could just throw my phone down on the nearest table and it charge while I'm off doing something else, or pick it up and toss it on the kitchen counter to charge while I cook (as if I ever cook) if need be. The possibilities are endless and complications, from my understanding, are minimal.
I'm ready for OEMs to start packing phones with inductive batteries already. What say you, ladies and gents? Is wireless charging a lost cause? Or is it just ahead of its time?