Can Nokia take wireless charging mainstream?

Can Nokia take wireless charging mainstream?

Summary: Nokia's flagship Windows Phone 8 smartphone is to feature wireless charging, and the Finnish handset company has struck deals to put charging pads on airlines and coffee shops. Is this enough to make the technology mainstream.


Wireless charging is not new. Even the much-loved Palm Pre, released back in 2009, wasn't the first handset to have this feature baked into the device. Now, Nokia is hoping that its new Windows Phone 8-powered Lumia 920 will take wireless charging and make it mainstream.

Nokia has embraced the Wireless Power Consortium's standard called Qi -- the Chinese word for energy flow, pronounced "chee" -- and hopes that the attraction of being able to recharge a smartphone without having to juggle cables and fiddle connectors into charging ports will be enough to win over consumers.

Moreover, while the flagship Lumia 920 has Qi wireless charging built in, the lower-spec Lumia 820 will come with an optional wireless recharging shell. Even Nokia isn't certain enough of the interest in wireless charging to add it to both handsets.

The Finnish smartphone company has gone as far as collaborating with Fatboy to create a recharge pillow, and has partnered with Virgin Atlantic airline and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf chain to make charging pads available to customers.

It's unlikely that Virgin Atlantic and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf are making this hardware available to consumers out of the goodness of their own heart. This is a deal, and it's likely that Nokia is bankrolling it. Nokia is hoping that the social buzz created by people seeing wireless charging pads on airlines and in coffee shops will encourage people to buy Lumias over the competition.

Microsoft has a history of trying -- and, mostly failing -- to leverage the social aspects of hardware. Two recent examples are the Zune media player and Windows Phone 7. The Zune had a "sharing" feature that allowed the owner of one Zune to send a song to another Zune owner -- assuming the owner could find another Zune owner -- with a 3-day/3-play limitation.

At the core of the Windows Phone 7 operating system was "social sharing," where a Windows Phone 7 handset will become the hub for all the owner's social interactions.

Using new hardware -- with minimal market penetration -- doesn't work to create a buzz. That buzz has to be generated initially by making people want to buy the hardware, in other words, marketing. Then, people see other people using that hardware, and they want it. That's the point at which trying to leverage the social aspect of hardware -- when enough people have it to make it truly social.  

Speaking to AllThingsD, Menno Treffers, chairman of the Wireless Power Consortium, said: "there's a real network effect in that the more products that have it [wireless charging], the more useful the feature becomes". He went on to say that: "the next step for wireless power is integrating Qi directly in mobile devices and in everyday spaces, so that you can take out your device at the coffee shop or in the center console of your car, for instance, and set it down to charge without wires".

This is a problem for Nokia. Qi is third-party technology -- like the Synaptics ClearPad touchscreen that enables gloved finger support -- and, as such, the Wireless Power Consortium wants to see it baked into as many products as possible. I'm betting that the consortium would love to get its technology into a mass-market smartphone like the iPhone. The consortium has no loyalty to Nokia. Getting into the Lumia 920 is a nice win, and if it doesn't end up being a profitable deal, the publicity will no doubt raise awareness of the technology.

It's unlikely that Nokia will take wireless charging and make it mainstream since the Lumia 920 is just one handset, and it's powered by Windows Phone, a virtual no-name compared to the iOS and Android mobile juggernauts. But this could well be the catalyst that raises awareness of wireless smartphone charging in the consciousness of the masses. And that could find it making its way into more smartphones, along with a range of other consumer electronic devices.

Whether that will take the technology and make it mainstream remains to be seen.

Image source: Nokia.

Topics: Nokia, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Smartphones

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  • Isn't it "2" Handsets?

    [i]It's unlikely that Nokia will take wireless charging and make it mainstream since [b]the Lumia 920 is just one handset[/b],[i]

    I believe the 820 also has this, or maybe AKH is only talking about the "Flagship" one?
    • Thev820 has it like the iPhone has it...

      By using an optional case.
      • Do you have links to these optional cases?

        I've looked at a couple of them but they involve cases that slip OVER the iPhone and make the iPhone HUGE and BULKY. They have to be huge and bulky because they have to plug into the iPhone at the bottom. This adds about an inch to the length of the iPhone. If you have links to more elegant solutions, please share them.

        From what I can tell, the optional case for the 820 doesn't slip OVER the 820, it replaces the case, making a wireless charging enabled 820 the same size as a standard 820.

        If adding wireless charging to the iPhone makes it far bigger and less mobile while adding wireless charging to the 820 doesn't, then it is absolutely incorrect to say the 820 has it like the iPhone has it. The 820 solution would be FAR superior.
  • Missed the coolest part

    The interesting thing to me about Nokia wireless charging wasn't charging pads in airports and coffee shops. I don't fly much and I don't hang out in coffee shops much. What will be cool is having the alarm clock next to my bed allow me to set my phone on it, allowing it to charge and being able to wake up to the music that is on the phone. Even cooler would be if an alarm that I set on my phone could cause the alarm clock to go off. Now, this alarm clock doesn't exist yet, but it should! Of course, if it's $300, how many people will buy it?
    The other aspect that by putting a charging pad on the coffee table next to the chair I sit in to watch TV, I can set my phone there and have it keep charging without having to plug it in. And, in the car. I get in the car, I set my phone down, it starts charging and I can play the music from it.
    What's going to sell the Lumia is the camera, the styling, the screen, and the WP8 apps (if and when they appear). But the wireless charging is very nice to have.
    • Why not

      Use the charging pillow on your nightstand and use the built-in alarm clock? WP does have a built in alarm clock, right? I'm not asking to be a troll but out of curiosity and not being overly familiar with the WP OS.
      • True...

        You can just get the Fatboy pillow and use the baked in alarm app in Wp8. I think the OP was just indicating that it'd be nice to take advantage of a nicer setup?
  • Myopic and biased article.

    This is an incredibly myopic assessment. Why compare everything with IOs which has less that 17% of the market share and could be wiped out in a year or two? Wireless current transmission was championed by Nikolai Tesla over 100 years ago and he also predicted that aerial warfare would become entirely "drone" and was building them too over 100 years ago - so there is nothing new here and the only shocking thing is that tech companies have been so slow on the uptake. By the way Tesla had plans to power his planes from the ground too - he was that far ahead! If you doubt this then bear in mind that your household AC current comes from him, your fluorescent light comes from him, your induction electric motor comes from him - and the basic radio wireless transmission and reception of your telephone comes from him. (It's not Marconi who has the patent it's Tesla!).

    Windows 8 is ground breaking in that it runs real SOFTWARE not just crappy apps - at least from tablet format upwards. This is something that Google will not match (Lets not even bother mentioning Apple). Nokia offers a proper OFFLINE mapping system too. Now with wireless charging you never have to plug the phone into anything again - which is how it should be.

    The future is clearly Microsoft and Google. Personally I'll still buy Sony devices because I use their built in ANT+ technology for sports specific devices. Otherwise I'd definitely make my next phone a Nokia.
    • Right now

      The sales and market share does not support your theory that the future is Microsoft and Google.
      • with that argument, Apple or Linux should have given up on desktops

        Microsoft is certainly late, which is reflected in lower market share. But it is growing, but the total smartphone pool is growing too.

        If sales and market share at this point of time is going to decide future, then Apple and Linux should have stopped working on desktops long ago. They too are stuck on few % for decades now.
    • yep!

      Telsa was truly a genius WAY ahead of his time.
    • Rhetoric

      "Windows 8 is ground breaking in that it runs real SOFTWARE not just crappy apps - at least from tablet format upwards. This is something that Google will not match (Lets not even bother mentioning Apple). Nokia offers a proper OFFLINE mapping system too. Now with wireless charging you never have to plug the phone into anything again - which is how it should be."

      .. as both Android and IOS, both have a Unix at the core beating underneath, i guess they surpass the Windows 8 Kernel, retarded by the metro UI.
      • How do you find your information??

        Since when is bragging about anything Unix based new or ground breaking?
  • Vente volte

    I don't know about the phones, but I give it a month before Heather Clancy writes an article on ZDNet about Starbucks installing 'Eco green' phone charging pads powered by Unicorn farts.
    Robert Hahn
  • Can Nokia take wireless charging mainstream?

    This is an absolute YES they can. No one else has deployed it on such a large scale so yes Nokia with its brand recognition will take it mainstream. When released I know I will be showing it to everyone and watch their jaws drop in envy.

    "Microsoft has a history of trying -- and, mostly failing -- to leverage the social aspects of hardware. Two recent examples are the Zune media player and Windows Phone 7."

    That's just a plain false statement. They have a history of great selling hardware. Xbox, Xbox 360, Kinect, Microsoft Natural Ergo Keyboard, Microsoft Mice, Microsoft Trackball Mice, Windows Phone 7 - its not a failure when it sells out both online and in the stores.
    Loverock Davidson-
  • Starbucks

    If Starbucks instead of Coffee Bean was on board, then yes I would say this is a bigger deal. It's a start (hopefully) for this trend to happen. Kudos to Nokia for trying something.
    • For some reason,

      Some of us prefer CBTL...


  • Does battery life suck - is this the real story ?

    Although wireless indiction charging is to be welcomed, I hope it's not a distracyion to the issue affecting most premium smartphones of sucky battery life.

    Large screen, multi-core CPU, LTE - Hmm all are battery drainers.
  • We've been here before

    The article refers to the Palm Pre's wireless charging. (I used a Pre and it was a nice feature.) That didn't make iOS and Android manufacturers feel any need to follow, and unless Nokia is super-successful with these phones I don't see what would be different this time. A lot of us don't actually care that much anyway because we only charge our phones overnight; wireless charging raises the price of the phone and we're not that likely to pay the extra.
    Rohan Jayasekera
    • Re: We've been here before

      P.S. I didn't pay extra for my Pre's wireless charging kit; I happened to get it for free from my carrier, who was promoting the Pre at the time. Now that my successor phone doesn't have the capability, it's not exactly a huge burden to plug in the charging cable and to pull it out when I take the phone away.
      Rohan Jayasekera
    • If Apple really is switching to a "Mag-Safe" styled connector on...

      ...on the iPhone 5, that would eliminate about 90% of my motivation for them to introduce inductive charging.

      The 30-pin dock connector worries me from two directions: 1) Being a connector using wiping (sliding) contacts, it's clearly got a mate-demate life and I'd hate to exhaust the available "cycles". 2) Requiring quite a bit of force to demate, I can easily imagine the damage that might occur if I were to trip over the cord and either rip the connector out or drag my iPad/iPhone to the floor with the cord.

      Inductive charging would eliminate both of those worries but so would a MagSafe-styled connector with pins that meet flat-to-flat.