Most phones that can be wirelessly charged today still have to sit right on top of a charging pad — in fact, even being slightly misaligned with the pad can cause a phone not to charge. Now, the company Energous says that it has a solution. Using a new take on existing technology, Energous says that it's able to wirelessly charge a device anywhere within a 15-foot radius of its transmitter. The closer to the transmitter, the faster a phone will charge — the farther away, the slower. However, distance theoretically won't be an issue: Energous' vision is that your phone, wearables, and other devices will slowly charge throughout the day, preventing you from ever having to actually plug it in or worry about power level.
Charging gets much slower when you have multiple devices
Let it be noted that during the entirety of the demo I sat through, I did not once see a phone's battery level rise. It's possible that I missed it — watching a phone charge is not the most thrilling thing I've seen this week. The phones did all display that they were being charged, however, so it appears that something was happening.
Energous calls the tech WattUp. While WattUp charging could eventually be built directly into a phone, a wireless speaker, or any other product that continually uses power, for now you're going to need to put your phone into a WattUp-enabled battery pack. Energous says that WattUp battery packs will be on the market by the end of 2015 — it also says that they shouldn't be any more expensive than a traditional battery pack. That won't entirely be up to Energous because it doesn't make any hardware itself, but it says that its hardware partners simply plan to put a smaller battery in their current cases and fill the rest of the case with WattUp tech, which apparently doesn't increase the cost.
You'll also need to buy a transmitter in order to use a WattUp battery pack. Energous says that a transmitter will cost around $300 and be able to power 12 devices at once. The transmitters on display were all quite large — maybe the size of a few laptops stacked together — but Energous says that it should shrink in size "6x" by the time they hit the market. Transmitters will come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, too. There'll be basic ones for beside your bed, bigger ones for conference rooms, and others designed to be used in stores.
Energous says that the secret to WattUp is that it uses Bluetooth LE to locate the device that needs to be charged, allowing it to target where it's transmitting power. Certainly, there is more than this going on, but Energous would only talk about how patented it all is.
That's a lot of promises for Energous to meet before the end of the year — it'll also have to prove the tech's efficacy. If it can, that's great news. It would mean true wireless charging on the market and potentially the beginning of the end of our battery woes. Without a doubt, at least a few people will be willing to put a big transmitter in their home for that.
Update January 16th, 6:50PM ET: In an email, Energous says that WattUp's charging speed is not necessarily slowed by the number of devices it's connected to, unlike what a representative initially stated during a briefing. Rather, if too many devices are connected, by default, they won't charge until other devices are finished.
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