Assault on Battery: Wireless Charging explained

This generation of might just get biking and phone charging mixed up:

“Look ma, no hands!”

Smartphones have come a long way. From their first gigantic predecessors to their slim, foldable future, they’ve lost a lot of bulk and gained a lot of brains. While everything being fast, getting faster and racing to fastest, there’s one integral component that has been watching in silence. Not anymore.

Smartphone batteries have been worked on as long as smartphones themselves. Daft Punk would’ve been glad to see them getting bigger, better, faster and stronger. Most smartphones nowadays ship with highly efficient Lithium-Ion Batteries. These have enough capacity to power most people throughout their day. If tech stopped at “If it ain’t broke, don’t change it!”, would we even bother to innovate?

Years ago, a device that can power itself wirelessly seemed like a concept out of Isaac Asimov’s science fiction. Today, it’s a magical reality.

When you dig deeper, however, charging is a complicated mix of chemistry and physics, and each has its own set of limitations and poorly publicized incompatibilities. What makes it worse is that phone makers slap confusing labels on otherwise straightforward components.

Has your new fancy wireless phone left you curious? Here are answers to all your questions, so plug in.

Smartphone Charging Crash Course

Every smartphone has a battery, and every battery delivers power in more or less the same way: a chemical reaction flowing from Positive to Negative.

A regular USB 1.0 and 2.0 plug can deliver up to 5V/0.5A (2.5W).

That’s the charging rate of an average phone, which isn’t much. An Apple iPhone charging at 2A over USB runs 10W. An average incandescent light bulb, in contrast, draws about 40W of power.

Find out more about Smartphone batteries here

Wireless Charging Explained

Wireless charging by transferring power from a charging device, without the need for a cable connection. It involves a power transmitter pad and a receiver, sometimes employing a case attached to a mobile device or even built into the device itself.

How does Wireless Charging work?

Wireless charging is based on principles of magnetism and inductive charging, where power is created by passing an electric current through two coils to creating an electromagnetic field. When the magnetic receiver on the mobile phone comes in contact with the transmitter or within a specific range, the magnetic field generates an electrical current within the device. The current is then turned into DC current and sent away to the device’s onboard battery.

What’s all the buzz about Qi Wireless Charging?

Qi ( which is pronounced as “chee”) is the main standard for wireless charging. It has been developed by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) for induction based charging over distances of up to 4 cm.

This standard is regularly used by many of the major smartphone players like Samsung, Apple, Sony, LG, HTC, Huawei, Motorola, and Blackberry.

Qi has three separate power specifications, beginning with the lowest power for charging mobile devices.

5W is a minimum, while some handsets support up to 15W. The second level can deliver up to 120W and is used for display panels and laptops and at the top is a high spec that can deliver up to 1kW to bigger devices such as kitchen utensils

But About Wireless Fast Charging?

Fast charging is a prime selling point for a lot of phones in 2019. Oppo, OnePlus and Qualcomm all have their own take on how to accelerate juicing up their devices.

Wireless Charging is a convenience which trades speed for comfort. Most wireless chargers that cooling systems are limited to slower charging rates of 5V/1A. Now, various brands offer fast wireless charging pads that come built-in with fans to dissipate warmth, allowing you to charge at speeds almost on par with wired charging.

While support for these pads is limited, it’s only a matter of time before they become an industry standard.
Learn more about Fast Charging

Sweet, Where Can I Get One?

Many peripheral makers now have their own wireless chargers including Belkin, Aniket and Logitech. Some are fashioned as mats or pads, others look like table lamps or stands.

Wireless charging is now ubiquitous. Swedish furniture giant Ikea, who recently made their Indian debut in Hyderabad, has hundreds of pieces of furniture, that have Qi wireless charging built into them. The furniture chain sells a range of cases for different phones as well.

The automobile industry isn’t far behind. Car manufacturers have wireless charging in certain models. These include various models from Audi-Volkswagen companies, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Ford, and Volvo.

Wireless Technology is expected to grow to a light where you can charge within feets worth of range in the coming years.

As we go hands-free, wire-free and potentially effort free, getting juiced up never felt better.

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