Some of you know I wince when someone uses the chi or qi word. I try to be silent when a guest in someone else's school. Even people who believe in Santa Claus have things to teach you. But if asked, I give my opinion. And when dealing with a competent martial artist who uses chi-speak, I often can squint my mental eyes and figure out what they see and how their magic works.
That said... I came across this article today in the Wall Street Journal. It's about "wireless" charging devices for cell phones, etc. Not really, but... It is kinda neat and certainly convenient. Understand that my undergraduate minor was in electrical engineering, so the wheels turn in my head when I see such a device. The article gives just enough information for this engineer to figure out how they did it.
Nevertheless... the designers must have been martial artists and/or had a clever sense of humor. I'll highlight the part I'm talking about.
- WSJWSj wrote:
March 25, 2011, 10:30 AM ET
Worth It? Cutting the Charging Cords
By Emily Glazer
Powering up devices has become essential, so wouldn’t it make your life easier if you could do it without the mess of cords?
Energizer’s Inductive Charger allows those with an iPhone 3G, 3Gs, 4 or BlackBerry Curve 8900 to charge wirelessly – although it doesn’t eliminate the need for cords entirely; you still must plug in a charging dock station and place the phones on it.
“Wireless is not power shooting across the room,” says Energizer’s Brand Manager Cari Curtis. “That’s, in part, why we call it inductive. We don’t want to deal with any misconceptions.”
The $89 charging station can accommodate two phones on its surface charging zones along with one device through a USB port. It also requires sleeves or BlackBerry replacement doors for phones. Those cost $34.99 each.
After snapping in the sleeve (which fits just like a case) on your smartphone, you place your phone on the Inductive Charger’s black surface. The sleeves have built-in Qi (pronounced CHEE) technology — the universal charging standard developed by the Wireless Power Consortium. The consortium includes more than 70 companies from device manufacturers like Motorola, carriers like Verizon, component manufacturers like Texas Instruments and consumer-oriented companies like Energizer.
When your phone is charging, a blue light will shine on the Inductive Charger. The blue light turns off to signal that the device is finished charging.
My Wall Street Journal colleague Katie Boehret first looked into wireless chargers three years ago, and re-examined why they hadn’t taken off about six weeks ago. Part of the problem, she said, was that there isn’t one standard, though Qi is gaining ground. Turns out some phones with Qi built into them are slated to come out, so you wouldn’t need a sleeve.
Ms. Curtis says if this technology holds up as the wireless standard, the charger will be useful for years to come on a variety of devices – something that could justify its price tag.
Energizer, the first to offer Qi-certified products, says it also hopes other devices with the technology will catch on. The maximum power for Qi is 5 watts, so mp3 players, GPS devices, bluetooth gadgets and digital cameras could work with it. Tablets, on the other hand, are usually at least 10 watts.
I mostly used the Inductive Charger at home because it isn’t something you’d easily fit into a smaller bag. While it isn’t too heavy, it is about the size of a tablet. But Energizer says in mid-October there will be a cheaper, slimmer and lighter single-phone model for people who may want to bring their charger on the go.
I liked the fact that the inductive charging zones don’t require locking your phone into an exact spot. If I needed to take a phone call, send a text or check email, picking up my phone and putting it back down wasn’t a whole to-do.
“We wanted freedom,” Ms. Curtis says. “That’s why we call them zones. Consumers can …drop phones down and leave them charging. It’s one less thing to worry about.”
My sister, friends and I could use the dock simultaneously — and I even had my iPod charging via the USB charger to see if it could power through. (It did.)
But Energizer does not have any sleeves for Androids or replacement doors for other BlackBerry models, which I found to be a major gap. Energizer would not comment on any future plans.
So is the Energizer Inductive Charger worth it? You’d have to dish out more than $100 to get the charger plus a sleeve or replacement door. But if you use more than one device or your family and friends would benefit from a communal station, this could be for you. I’ll pass for now, but I’m eagerly awaiting more Qi-specific devices.