A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to review a Qi wireless charger from WoodPuck. The WoodPuck was a beautiful piece of hardware, but I had some issues with the accessory. I found that charging my phone was inconsistent and inefficient. Admittedly, part of that could have been because of my setup. I was trying to use the WoodPuck with my LG G3 from AT&T. Although most versions of the G3 are Qi compatible, AT&T disabled that option in favor of their own wireless charging standard. I had to order a special adapter just to make it work. While I had to jump through some hoops to get the WoodPuck up and running, it not only showed me how far wireless charging had come, but also how far it has to go. Wireless charging solutions have a lot of potential, but at the moment, a cord is the most efficient method to charge your electronics. When I got the opportunity to talk with Randy Marx (CEO of fliCharge) about their wireless charging solutions, I thought I could take the opportunity to learn more about the state of wireless charging technology.
Wireless charging is starting to become a major feature of modern smartphones. Not very long ago wireless chargers required big ugly cases for your phone and ugly matts for your desk. Recently, we’re seeing the charging pads turned into nice looking accessories, like the WoodPuck, and cases are no longer required for most smartphones. Before long we could see the tech built right into tables, nightstands, car armrests and other places. Imagine going to Starbucks and just setting your phone on the table to top off your battery. It sounds like a great idea, but we have a way to go.
Right now, there are several different standards that are fighting for market share. This causes confusion with consumers and causes problems for manufacturers. This was one of the main things I wanted to address with Mr. Marx, does he see the wireless carriers agreeing on a standard? He said, “In the end we believe the consumer will determine the future of wire-free charging. From our research, consumers are looking for more than a ‘fancy phone charger.’ To dominate the market and replace cord charging a wire-free solution needs to be highly efficient, cost effective and interoperable for charging multiple devices be it at home, in cars, at school, or the office.”
One of the biggest issues I’ve run into with wireless charging is the performance. Wireless chargers can be finicky, if a phone is aligned wrong on a charging pad, it might not charge. Also, phones take a lot longer to charge when compared to a regular old cord. Until overall performance and ease of use improves, it’s going to be hard for consumers to make the change to wireless charging. What does Mr. Marx think it will take to make wireless charging more popular and possibly a future standard for consumers? “We believe infrastructure, with emphasis on automotive, will be the key to timing. From commuters to contractors and service people to law enforcement and emergency workers, having a charged phone or other battery-operated device in their vehicle is very important if not life critical. Once wire-free charging is employed in everyday life across multiple demographics in automobiles, commercial vehicles, schools, businesses and at home it can become the standard. We are seeing progress in these areas and believe this can happen during the next 3-5 years, possibly earlier.”
With my main questions addressed, it was time to move onto fliCharge and what sets it apart from other wireless charging solutions. First, fliCharge is different from the Qi standard. Where the Qi is an inductive charger, the fliCharge is a conductive charger. FliCharge claims that their system is compatible with most battery operated devices. What really sets the fliCharge apart though is their focus on the automotive world. They already have their wireless charging solutions available for over ten different vehicles including: Dodge, Ford and Toyota vehicles. Furthermore, they are working on products for offices and schools that can charge many devices at once. Mr. Marx went on to say, “The fliCharge technology is a significant improvement that we believe the general public will continue to embrace. In fact, we have found that with fliCharge’s high charging efficiencies, consumers can’t tell the difference between our charge rate and plugging into an electrical socket. Also, the ability to place a device anywhere on a fliCharge pad is very easy, convenient and safe – this includes in vehicles where specific placement of a device may be dangerous if not impossible.”
I have to admit that the fliCharge intrigued me. Who doesn’t want to do away with all the power cords that have become a part of our daily lives? Think how great it would be to set your phone down to charge in the car without worrying about cords. I don’t know if anyone has ever looked into it, but I bet trying to plug a micro-USB cord into your phone while driving, is nearly as dangerous as texting while driving. If fliCharge’s performance claims hold up, it would be a good first step towards showing me that wireless charging is a viable solution. If I found fliCharge in my new car or in use at my office, it would be hard to pass up the convenience of a single charger for my electronics at home. By focusing on the automotive world fliCharge have found a creative way into peoples lives, while also creating something that makes a lot of sense. It will be interesting to see how the fliCharge performs when stacked against the other wireless charging standards, but it sounds like they might be on the right track.
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