Your Smartphone Could Soon Charge Over the Air

No wires necessary

Key Takeaways

  • Several companies are working on ways to let you charge your smartphone over the air. 
  • Motorola is working with former Caltech scientists to develop smartphones that can be powered up to 3 feet away from a charger.
  • Xiaomi recently showed a concept video for charging a phone over the air.
Someone holding a smartphone that show a battery icon with 82% Charged on the screen.

Prykhodov / Getty Images

You may soon be able to charge your smartphone over the air, thanks to a growing number of technological advances. 

Motorola recently said that it’s partnering with former Caltech scientists to develop smartphones that can be powered up to 3 feet away from a charger. The effort could mean an end to the constant search for power cords. 

"Over-the-air charging gives users much more freedom with their devices,"  Cesar Johnston, the chief operating officer of the wireless charging company Energous, said in an email interview. 

"No need to feel tethered to the nearest wall socket. And devices can still be used while they’re charged over-the-air." 

Freedom From Cords

To develop its over-the-air charging (OTA), Motorola is working with GuRu Wireless, a company founded by Caltech scientists. 

"Most non-wirelessly charged devices have only one charging speed, but over-the-air wireless charging can allow users to throttle how much power is coming into their device."

"At Motorola, we are constantly working to bring innovations to the market that can improve our consumers' lives. With this solution, we will provide a glimpse of the freedom and flexibility that users can enjoy with a revolutionary over-the-air, wireless power technology," said Dan Dery, vice president of product at Motorola, said in a news release.

"With GuRu, we imagine a new generation of wirelessly powered devices."

GuRu says its patented miniature modules will allow devices to be powered at long range by precision power transfer. The technology continuously charges devices and reroutes power as necessary as a safety measure.

"Over-the-air charging is demanded by end-users to provide freedom," Florian Bohn, CEO and co-founder of GuRu Wireless, told Lifewire in an email interview.

"Mobile devices and electronics such as wearable devices will always be charged as the charging happens in the background. Installation and maintenance of cameras and IoT devices become a breeze, and the cost, both in terms of dollars and time/effort of operating these devices, is drastically reduced."

Motorola is among many companies vying to get its OTA products to market. Xiaomi recently showed a concept video for charging a phone over the air.

"In the near future, Xiaomi’s self-developed space isolation charging technology will also be able to work with smartwatches, bracelets, and other wearable devices," the company wrote on its website.

"Soon our living room devices, including speakers, desk lamps, and other small smart home products, will all be built upon a wireless power supply design, completely free of wires, making our living rooms truly wireless."

Power could one day even come from cell phone signals. Researchers recently wrote in a paper that they had come up with a way of gathering and distributing the energy from 5G wireless communications. 

"5G has been designed for blazingly fast and low-latency communications," the authors wrote in the paper. "To do so, mm-wave frequencies were adopted and allowed unprecedented high radiated power densities by the FCC. Unknowingly, the architects of 5G have, thereby, created a wireless power grid capable of powering devices at ranges far exceeding the capabilities of any existing technologies."

Making Phones Smaller

In the ongoing race to make phones lighter and thinner, over-the-air charging could help. 

Someone holding a smartphone with a charging indicator on the screen but no wires attached.

Mediaphotos / Getty Images

Over-the-air wireless charging lets manufacturers design smaller, waterproof and portless devices that look, feel and work better than those with cumbersome charging ports that get dirty and take up valuable real estate inside increasingly smaller devices, Johnston added. And over-the-air charging gives users more control over the power management of their devices. 

"Most non-wirelessly charged devices have only one charging speed, but over-the-air wireless charging can allow users to throttle how much power is coming into their device," he said. 

Don’t expect to see OTA charging become ubiquitous right away, experts say. The process requires a rigorous approval process from the FCC. 

"As more solutions are developed and approved by the FCC and other regulatory bodies, like our WattUp technology was this past month, we’ll start to see charging distances increase to longer distances up to 10-15 feet," Johnston said.

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