I did a double take last week as I ordered a small/tall/medium or whatever sized coffee at Starbuck’s the other day. They had a big sign that listed the use of ‘Free Wireless Charging Stations’ at several of the counters at the Starbuck’s across the street from South Station here in downtown Boston. And I’ve gotta admit, I was pretty blown away…”It’s about time!” I thought…but I most definitely had some questions…
“How come wireless charging isn’t everywhere by now?”
Turns out, Starbuck’s actually introduced wireless charging at 200 of it’s locations around the Bay Area last November in 2014 and expanded into a national roll out powermat charging stations in early to mid 2015. Guess I just don’t go to Starbuck’s all that often…regardless I was intrigued. How do these work? Are they truly wireless? OoOoo are they solar powered?
Nope. They work slow and are really just there for the wow factor.
Despite the validity of the questions, and the convenience factor of charging your phone wirelessly on the table, I wondered why I hand’t seen more of these… just think about the potential uses. Trains, planes busses, cars (in some cases we already do have them) but wireless charging via solar power is, and will be the next major feat for technologists and developers alike. But really, how come it’s not all over the place. This is 2015 after all isn’t it? And how is it that Starbuck’s is only the first commercial chain I’ve noticed that’s implemented it.
It was actually maybe a couple days before my Starbuck’s encounter that I watched a commercial for the new Samsung Galaxy S6 edge which announced, ‘No more wires needed’ as they launched their own wireless charing station. I may be behind the times (about 6 months or so) because after further research I noticed these ‘powermat’ have been out since early April (and talked about for even longer – Seriously Nikola Tesla talked about it in the early 19th century). Everyone knew they were coming, but perhaps this was something I was sleeping on, being an iOS user and having the standard wall plug in charger.
Long story short, I’m wondering why these wireless charging stations aren’t in the mainstream yet and I found some interesting things…let’s start with the quick bit of research I found from Samsung’s Wireless Charging Pad that launched earlier this year.
1) Setup is pretty simple, but you still have to plug in the wireless adapter into an outlet. The surface pad just makes it so your phone charges without having to connect to a wall mount. So, realistically it’s not wireless, nor does it include a battery charge so you can take it on the go.
2) These first gen ‘wireless chargers’ are pretty slow…it took two hours to fully charge a Samsung Galaxy Edge S6, despite it’s convenience and cool factor. However, it does charge through most third party cases such as an ‘Otter Box.’
3) Samsung built in audio and visual status indicators to let you know without having to check in to your phone. However, it can take a while to fully charge and can actually drain your battery if used improperly. Your device must be placed in the very center of the charging pad and can make your phone very hot to the touch, although it’s not uncommon for phones to get a bit warm during charging.
4) Lastly, Samsung released their Wireless Charging Pad for $50. But is it too much? Considering you could buy a separate (and standard) wall charger for half the cost, with the ability to charge your phone in half the time than a wireless charger station, is it too soon for a mass exodus to wireless charging stations?
Or is the idea of leaving your untethered phone sitting on a foreign space within a public domain an odd fit for our socially reservationist society? Now that cell phones are our attachments to every single bit of personal information, the risk does not seem to be worth the reward. Perhaps at home, there is more of a benefit to wireless charging…that is when an industry leading product is finally for sale.
All in all, the answer, despite the cool factor of ‘Wireless Charging’ is that it takes too long and is a bit of a clunky process. For me, I’m just not sold that people will opt for longer chargers, just to avoid plugging their phone into a wall. Until the time comes for a better device (for cheaper) with shorter charge times, I don’t think we’ll be seeing these coming into the mainstream, despite their repeated attempts by various manufacturers.
That being said, there’s a massive potential for a third party to come into the market and develop a true wireless charging device. Solar power seems to be the obvious answer, and I’m sure there are people working on the tech as we speak, but again I think, “This is 2015! Shouldn’t we have this figured out by now?” And why is it all mostly for Android devices? Apple, figure it out man!