The world is going increasingly wireless, with hardware manufacturers left and right eschewing physical ports and cables for digital handshakes and gigahertz connections. Just look at Apple's infamous headphone jack-eliminating AirPods, for example. However, one plug that device makers have continually struggled to remove is the one that supplies the gadget with power. The era of wireless mobile device charging has been "right around the corner" for the better part of a decade but will Google's latest foray into Qi-enabled charging technology finally be the popular push that brings wireless power transfers into the mainstream?
Wireless charging works using the same physics principles that generate inductive heating effects. Basically, you can generate an electromagnetic field which, in turn, enables the transfer of energy captured between metallic objects located within the field.
When you're heating a pot full of water, for example, you're simply pulling electrical energy from the stove up to the metallic coil imprinted on the bottom of the pot. This heats up the pot and boils the liquid inside. Same basic idea applies to batteries. In that case, the charger employs an induction coil to generate an oscillating magnetic field. That field feeds energy into the target device's battery via electromagnetic induction through a similar copper coil. Essentially, it's the same as if you're pulling energy from the stove but, instead of dumping that potential power into a pot of tepid water, you're dropping it into a battery.
Google's efforts are far from the first time that mobile device manufacturers have attempted to power their phones and tablets through near-field energy transfers. In fact, the wireless charging revolution technically started back in 2009 with the release of the Palm Pre. The Apple iPhone 8 and X already offer wireless charging capabilities (using the same Qi charging standard), as did the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and 8, the Sony Xperia XZ3, and Blackberry Priv with similar standards before them. The problem, of course, is that none of the wireless charging systems that have come before have met with much commercial success. That could well change with the recent (re)emergence of the Qi standard.