Chances are, you plug that smartphone, tablet or other mobile device into an outlet at least once per day. The promise of wireless charging is supposed to make this an easier task: Just place your device on a charging pad to juice up the battery through magnetic coils. The theory is sound and it does work — Palm’s (s hpq) Touchstone charger from 2009 is a great example — although the charging pad itself must be plugged in via a wire. So why then hasn’t this solution, called inductive charging, taken off? The biggest challenge has been a lack of device compatibility, but Energizer (s enr) is taking advantage of a new standard in the hopes of bringing wireless energy to handsets everywhere.
The standard, called Qi, was created last year by the Wireless Power Consortium, currently comprising 81 companies. Qi eliminates obstacles from proprietary wireless solutions because any device with the Qi logo can can be charged on a Qi mat, regardless of the device manufacturer. Without such a standard, consumers have to purchase device-specific cases that work only with charging pads from the same manufacturer. For example: an iPhone 4 (s aapl) charging case made by company A won’t work on a charger made by company B. The Qi standard eliminates that problem by making Qi-compatible devices interchangeable across products made by different manufacturers. (See: 10 Things to Know About Wireless Power)
So Qi solves the problem of using wireless charging cases with different manufacturers, but there’s still the issue of device-specific cases. As it stands now, if you switch from an iPhone to a BlackBerry device, the Qi case from your old handset won’t fit the new one, for example. Energizer’s answer to that problem is a new Qi-compatible Micro/Mini USB adapter, which it will be showing off later this month. The adapter will attach to the back of virtually any handset and uses the fairly standard micro and mini USB ports found on most phones to get wireless power to and from the mat to the handset battery.
This generic approach is sure to use some wire to route energy from the adapter to the phone, but that’s a small price to pay for the freedom of adding wireless charging capability to nearly any device. And it makes sense, given the recent adoption of micro USB as the universal charging method for phones. With the Energizer adapter, nearly any modern phone could gain wireless power. Now if we could just get our increasingly capable phones with multiple radios to easily get through a full day on a charge, we’d be in business!