A couple of weeks ago, Ed was impressed by a demo of Energizer's new inductive charger, which lets you charge phones by plopping them on a mat rather than plugging in a cable. The gadget's about to go on sale in Target stores; Energizer loaned me a unit to try, and I'm impressed, too.
Actually, what I'm impressed by is the fact that Energizer's system is based on Qi, a new standard for inductive charging. Earlier inductive set-ups such as Powermat are based on proprietary implementations -- you have to buy the mat and the sleeves and replacement battery covers from the same company, and if no support if offered for your phone, you're out of luck. By supporting Qi, Energizer's mat will work with any Qi sleeve or battery cover. Eventually, if all goes according to plans, there will be phones with Qi support built right in, and the standard will work with other mobile gizmos such as cameras.
Qi is the creation of an industry group called the Wireless Power Consortium, and while the name strikes me as pointlessly confusing (the Energizer boxes have to explain that it's pronounced "Chee," and even the logo is cryptic), the member list is stellar: Energizer, Duracell, Best Buy, LG, Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung, Verizon Wireless, and many other interested parties.
Energizer is charging $89 for the Inductive Charger mat (which can charge two devices simultaneously, plus another plugged in via USB) and $34.99 apiece for an iPhone 3GS sleeve (which is better-looking than Powermat's lumpy version) and a BlackBerry 8900 battery cover. The company has plans for an iPhone 4 sleeve, but isn't going to support scads of phones itself; instead, it'll count on QI becoming common enough that other companies do the job.
Energizer's prices still strike me as a tad pricey for a product which, when all is said and done, saves you the hassle of plugging cables into ports on phones. But if all the companies behind Qi really come out with products based on the standard, it should tend to drive prices down, and if Qi is built into gadgets, it'll make the whole proposition a whole lot appealing. The Energizer mat is also designed to stay at home, but the company is mulling over what a more portable version might look like. (An Energizer representative I spoke with also through out an interesting what-if: Wouldn't it be nifty if Qi was built into the desks in hotel rooms?)
It's not a given that Qi is going to take off, but a standard is the only logical way to do this stuff. Are you intrigued, even a little?
This story, "Energizer’s Inductive Charger: Qi Makes Its Debut" was originally published by Technologizer.