At the launch event for the new Galaxy S III smartphone on Thursday, Samsung mentioned--but did not show--a wireless charging device for the phone. What a cool idea at first glance. No more plugging in. You just lay the phone down on a special pad and it charges.
Now that you're over the initial thrill, tell me exactly what problem this product solves. You don't have to plug the phone in? Really? You're willing to spend extra money for this?
A similar charger as an add-on for an older Samsung Galaxy costs about $35. If you pay even $5 for a simple USB cable and a wall socket adapter you're getting ripped off. You probably don't even need one of those because you already have four or five lying around the house.
The wireless charger doesn't show up on the Galaxy S III's accessory page, but I'm sure it will cost at least as much as the add-on product, although it might have a big advantage over third-party products: They make you insert your phone into a special case. Samsung didn't say whether its charger will require a special case, or if it has put the induction receiver in the phone case itself, but it has hinted that the receiver is built in.
At CES in Las Vegas in January I spoke to representatives of the Wireless Power Consortium, an industry group that controls an interoperability standard for wireless power devices. Below is a video of that meeting and some of the products they were displaying.
In fairness to the Wireless Power Consortium, there is a long-term vision here: Imagine a world where charging pads that conform to the consortium's Qi (pronounced "chee") power standard are common. Wherever you go there will be a place you can just put your phone down and charge it. Heck, you'll probably put it down and charge it and not even realize you're charging it. The WPC showed some of these at CES, such as a charging plate on an automobile center console.
A major premise of these chargers is that devices are going to require power faster than battery technology can keep up, and therefore we'll need charging to be as easy and ubiquitous as possible. I'm not so sure I see this happening. Battery technology might not have revolutionary jumps ahead soon, but there are still lots of efficiencies to be gained in electronics designs.
And anyplace I would expect a wireless charging pad to be, I would expect a wall socket.