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Why you plug gadgets into the wall like a Neanderthal

Mike Elgan | Aug. 26, 2013
Wireless charging? We have the technology; what we don't have is industry vision -- or unity.

(You'll notice that some companies are in all three organizations.)

As a result of the industry's disunity, you might have to be careful when buying devices and chargers to make sure they match. And even if you do make sure your devices and chargers all adhere to the same standard, you might still find that you can't charge your gear in some public wireless charging venues.

Still, there's been a lot of progress in wireless charging.

Starbucks, Coffee Bean and McDonald's are all testing wireless charging stations in their restaurants. Starbucks has tests underway in 27 locations in Boston and Silicon Valley. Coffee Bean is testing in Los Angeles. And McDonald's has test locations in New York and Europe.

Delta Air Lines has wireless charging stations in its Sky Club lounge in New York's La Guardia Airport and at La Guardia's Marine Air Terminal.

Automakers are starting to build wireless charging stations into some car models. For example, GM plans to put wireless chargers in the Chevy Volt, starting with 2014 models and expanding to other models later. Toyota and Chrysler have previously announced support for wireless charging.

Interesting developments are happening in unexpected places.

One of the boldest is from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), which is testing an electric bus that recharges from buried power cables under the asphalt. Sounds cool, but the idea probably doesn't have wheels in the real world.

The European Poker Tour has announced a publicity stunt in which players will get free wireless charging via custom-made poker tables that have built-in charging mats.

The truly interesting developments in wireless charging for you and me, however, are happening in the smartphone and tablet worlds.

Wireless charging coming to a gadget near you!
Google's new Nexus 7 represents something close to the future of wireless charging. It comes with wireless charging capability without an additional kit or add-on. Although it comes with a conventional wired charger, it doesn't come with its own wireless charger. You have to buy that separately.

If all handset and tablet makers adopted wireless charging for their devices and didn't include chargers with their products — wireless or otherwise — every gadget buyer would be forced to buy an all-purpose charger, and the industry would be on its way toward wireless nirvana.

The U.S. version of the Verizon LG G2 gets it right, too, with wireless charging out of the box. The phone should become available through Verizon on Sept. 12.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 has an optional wireless charging kit. The upgrade requires the replacement of the phone's back cover, which makes the device thicker. The phone's S Charger kit uses the Qi standard, so it should charge with any Qi charger.


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