My first experience with inductive charging was way back in 2004 when I reviewed one of Microsoft’s SPOT watches. The watches themselves were kind of clunky, but I thought it was so cool that they could be charged just by being placing on a cradle. The fact that no cables had to be plugged directly into the watch was like magic and I was sure that it would be no time until all my favorite gadgets had the same feature.
In 2009, the Palm Pre smartphone had an optional inductive charger called the Touchstone. I thought that might be the spark needed to ignite popularity for this charging method, but no such luck. Yes, over the years there have been a variety of special cases and charging mats that will add wireless charging capability to certain devices, but those add-on products are bulky and ugly. I’ve been waiting for a solution that is as elegant and simple as those original SPOT watches. Now here we are almost a decade later and we’re finally starting to see some progress. Although I’m not aware of any devices that are actually shipping with inductive charger, some of the newest smartphones have the Qi (pronounced as chi) feature built in… including my Samsung Galaxy S3. Is inductive charging still as cool as I thought it was 9 years ago? Let’s see.
Note: Images can be clicked to view a larger size.
First of all, if you’re not familiar with inductive charging, I’ll let Wikipedia explain what it is:
Inductive charging (also known as “wireless charging”) uses an electromagnetic field to transfer energy between two objects. This is usually done with a charging station. Energy is sent through an inductive coupling to an electrical device, which can then use that energy to charge batteries or run the device.
I was very excited when I learned that the Samsung Galaxy S3 could be used with Qi wireless chargers. But then was bummed when I later learned that a special back cover had to be purchased from Samsung in order to actually use the feature. Samsung is yet to release this promised cover, but other companies have come to the rescue by offering charging kits that either include a cover with a built in Qi receiver or a Qi patch like the one I purchased from Fasttech.com for less than $14.
The patch that you see in this article’s lead image and the image above is a simple thin antenna that is sandwiched between two slick plastic sheets. A small tab protrudes from the patch with 2 electrodes.
To install it, you just take the cover off the back of the S3…
Find the 2 sockets on beside the battery…
Place the patch over the battery so that the electrodes match up with the sockets and then snap the cover back on. Quick, simple and painless.
The next part you’ll need is an actual Qi charger base. I didn’t buy one when I purchased the Qi receiver patch from Fasttech because I already had a charging pad left over from another review I had been working on.
The charger shown above is branded differently, but is probably the same one also sold by Fasttech. This charging base charges my S3 even with the Elago cover on the back, but it has two flaws. First all, it has a huge status LED that is always on. It glows Red while charging and then turns Blue when it’s finished charging. But the fatal flow is that it doesn’t shut off when the battery is fully charged. It just keeps trying to charge, which worries me.
So I did a little research and ordered the Nokia DT-900 Wireless Charging Plate from Amazon because it is supposed to turn off once charging is completed. It also has a tiny status LED unlike the obnoxiously large one on the other charging plate. I thought I was all set once I received the Nokia plate, but the frustration continues because now I’m having problems with this charger too. I can set the S3 on the plate and the S3′s screen will come on and it will sow that it’s charging. Less than a minute later it will stop charging and the status LED on the plate will begin blinking which means there’s a problem. I can adjust the position of the phone and it will immediately begin charging again for a few seconds and will then turn off.
At this point I’m not sure if the problem is with the Nokia plate or the charging patch. I’ve made sure the patch electrodes are making good contact with the sockets on the S3 and even taped them down. I’ve also tried all sorts of postions on the plate. No luck. I’ll probably send the Nokia plate back to Amazon to get my $49 back.
After trying to get this to work with my phone, I’ve come to the conclusion that inductive charging might not be all rainbows and unicorns like I always thought it would be. I really wanted it to work for one specific location – my night stand. Since I’m using my S3 as my alarm clock, I keep it plugged in all night. It would be more convenient if it wasn’t physically tethered so that I could just grab it off the charging plate in the middle night if I needed to check the time and in the morning when I get up. As it is now, the cord is always falling on the floor between the night stand and the bed, which can be annoying.
Anyone else out there having better luck using Qi inductive charging with your Samsung Galaxy S3?