Improved wireless phone and tablet charging on the way?

BARCELONA—Phone and tablet makers now pay close attention to wireless-charging technology, because it could erase one of the biggest headaches of device owners—having to plug in.

Instead, when your device is out of gas, you could just plop it down on a charging surface (maybe built into the kitchen counter) and pick it back up when the charge is done. No cable. No searching for outlets.

But wireless-charging technology is still in its developmental stage, and technical challenges still stand in the way of its working perfectly. For one thing, if other metal objects like pens or coins also sit on the charging surface, the phone of tablet to be charged won’t charge, or they will charge at a very slow rate. Some wireless-charging technologies can charge only one device at a time.

A solution to slow charging?

One company, Silicon Valley-based Proxi, says it has the solution to those problems. Tony Francesca, VP of consumer products, told me Sunday that his company’s wireless-charging surface will charge multiple devices at the same rate as if they were plugged into a wall outlet. And, no, pens and coins don’t mess up the process.

Proxi's wireless-charging technology, which was originally developed at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, uses a number of wireless power coils in the surface, which makes it unique among the various charging systems available now, Francesca says. Each of those coils, he says, has beside it a tiny circuit board that regulates the amount of power being sent by the coil.

The electrical power is sent through a very layer of air between the charging surface and the device. The power is then received by another small coil near the device’s battery. It’s accompanied by a tiny circuit board, which regulates the amount of power flowing into the battery.

Francesca says his company is working with battery companies, phone makers, and PC makers to bake this charging technology into their devices. He says products containing that should to market within the next year.

As with other wireless-charging solutions, we’ll have to wait to see how the technology really works off the shelf. So far, nobody’s really hit it out of the park.

Updated on February 27 with a video report.

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