Friday, February 28, 2020

Wireless Charging

Another step toward cable-free convenience

We take it for granted these days that we can walk around with laptop computers, mobile phones, and tablets – untethered yet still actively on the Internet. I have news for those under 30 years old... this is not the way things always worked. Computers and telephones were anchored by communications cables until the end of the 20th century. WiFi networks and carrier 3G are both only about 20 years old, which for people my age is well within recent memory. 

Early mobile devices were large and heavy (by today's standards), battery life was limited, and data rates were... let's say "limited." Over the years, things have improved substantially. Data rates are much better on both 802.11 WiFi networks and on carrier networks, with a promise for big improvements in both in the coming years. Devices are thinner and lighter. Even the battery life is slowly improving which is a higher hurdle than might at first be obvious, because we keep putting faster processors, more memory, and higher performance communications electronics in our mobile devices all of which require real power.

Over that same set of years, cables still played a role for mobile devices. In the early days we plugged phones and tablets into computers to sync data and perform upgrades, and to charge their batteries while we did so. Over time, the mobile devices became less of a peripheral or accessory to a computer and more a standalone device. They became able to store and back up data in the cloud and to download application software and operating system upgrades without a computer playing a part. We now even have the option to get rid of wired ear buds as Bluetooth ear buds like the Apple AirPods are an (expensive) option. It seems as though everyone at the gym has them now, and I admit to loving mine.

But the cables are not yet completely gone. We still plug our mobile devices in at least once a day (for me, usually overnight) to fully charge the batteries.

Now, with inductive charging available for some mobile devices, and very likely a rapid increase in availability in the coming 1-2 years, we may get rid of the last of the cables. Setting my phone, tablet, and Bluetooth ear buds onto a charging mat once at the end of the day and never plugging anything into them at all would be a great next step.

Is this a convenience you want? What's a reasonable expectation in terms of charging time and cost of equipment? Leave a comment and let us know.


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