Wireless charging has become common in recent years, giving you the option of placing your phone, smartwatch, or other small gadgets on a charging pad or stand without the need to connect any wires.

But for years a handful of companies have been developing technology that would allow wireless charging at a distance – no more pads required. Just walk into a room near a charger and your mobile devices will recharge automatically.

So far this technology has remained largely in the prototype/demo state, and that’s not necessarily going to change this year. But phone makers Xiaomi and Motorola are both showing off their own take on wireless charging at a distance, suggesting that companies could roll it out at some point in the future.

Xiaomi says its Mi Air Charge technology supports remote charging at up to 5 watts and works by placing a charging system with an array of 144 antennas in a room, allowing it to transmit millimeter-wide waves of energy directly to a phone using beamforming technology. The phone has its own 14 antenna receiver that converts those waves into power.

The Mi Air Charge system has a radius “of several meters,” which should be enough to start charging your device as soon as you walk into a room. The system also supports charging multiple devices simultaneously, with each device supporting up to 5 watts.

Sure, it’ll take longer to charge a phone with 5 watt wireless charging than with a more traditional wired or wireless fast charging system. But this sort of system would remove the headache of having to figure out when to charge your phone at all. If the battery is low, it would automatically charge up when you’re in range without the need for user intervention.

Xiaomi says right now the system is designed for phones, but it could be adapted for smartwatches and other wearables in the future as ell as wireless speakers, lamps, and other smart home products.

At this point Xiaomi says Mi Air Charge is just a demo though, with a representative telling TechCrunch that the company has no plans to include the technology in products that will ship this year.

We know even less about Motorola’s contact-free wireless charging, but a brief demo video posted to Chinese social media site Weibo shows two Motorola Edge series smartphones charging at the same time while placed 80cm (31 inches) and 100 cm (39 inches) away from a charger.

Motorola hasn’t confirmed plans to actually incorporate contact-free wireless charging into phones either, but the company did ask viewers whether they should use the technology in future Motorola Edge phones.

via xda-developers

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  1. I wonder how efficient it is in terms of power consumption. 5 watts gets to the phone, how many watts does it take from the wall? My guess is that the loss is significant.

    Also I wonder how much it will interfere with 5G. Both use millimetre-wide waves.

    1. Also, if Millimetre-wide waves are going to be used for both telecommunications and consumer goods like wireless charging, I hope there are some regulatory considerations for this.

      I sincerely hope this doesn’t become the next “2.4ghz”, where the spectrum becomes filled with clutter like baby-monitors, wireless car-key finders, and wireless fart-noise generators.

      1. Yeah thats true, I had forgotten that I had read that in the past.

        I guess we only need to worry about consumer goods that use mmWave frequencies outdoors.

  2. This…really doesn’t add anything to the experience of using a phone, except you can get even more lazy than plopping the phone on an induction pad. And there are dozens of watts of 5g frequency radiation being pumped into you.
    Yeah that might sound paranoid (it is), but when it’s charging your phone at 5 watts, that’s 5 watts per maybe 120cm^2 (probably less). Even with beamforming they’re not perfectly focused on the phone. Getting hit with at least 24 watts distributed all over your body, or at least hand, while you’re holding said phone doesn’t sound unrealistic to me, considering that beam-forming doesn’t make perfect neat little cones like that in a couple simulation videos I looked up.
    It looks like a cell tower probably doesn’t output that much on a regular basis (and even the 500 watt ones work over a very wide area, not a several meter radius) and it’s not like there aren’t potential negative health effects.
    And unlike 5g, you can choose not to let this in.
    Even at best, this is still a luxury item that only benefits extended use of a device that, for the sake of your mental health, posture, and eyes, you should probably spend less time using, not more.
    Or maybe I’m just a poor and stupid luddite looking for excuses to live like a peasant as his country spirals into chaos, disrespect, and irrelevance.

  3. So you transmit at 100w in your room so your phone can charge at 1w? Beam forming might help get a 10% boost in efficiency? no idea, but there is no free lunch with this… it’s incredibly wasteful, not to mention… the radiation is pretty intense.
    I can’t find in Google where maybe Philips tried this with some LED light strips a long long time ago.

  4. I wonder what sort of heat this distance charging generates. Charging on a QI pad (or through a quick charge cable) creates a ton of heat, which shortens the lifespan of the phone’s battery.

    If this is a cool alternative to slow charging, then I’m all for it.

    1. This is the reason why I stopped using wireless charging. My phone got noticeably hotter when compared to wired charging. Not good with these batteries that don’t like heat.