Wireless phone chargers can be found in coffee houses, airports and stores around the world as companies compete to become the industry “standard.” Duracell Powermats installed at Starbucks and other chains sit on the store’s tabletops and look like flat coasters. They are accessible with smartphones like the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy.
Has the future of mobile technology arrived? Starbucks, McDonald’s and Delta Sky Club are testing wireless phone-charging stations for customers, possibly ushering in a new era of smartphone use at cafes, restaurants, bars and major venues across the USA.
Last week, Starbucks announced it will roll out Duracell Powermat charging docks at 10 stores in Silicon Valley over the next few weeks, expanding its pilot test, which began last fall, from 17 locations in Boston.
Companies have made wireless chargers available for purchase and personal use, and chains such as Starbucks could play a role in making them more mainstream, says Gerard Goggin, a professor at the University of Sydney who has researched global cellphone culture. The coffee chain led the way in popularizing public Wi-Fi in the past decade.
Wireless charging also is spreading on an international level as charging stations appear in public places across Europe and Asia.
“Electricity is the last great barrier in mobiles, and if it can be sorted out, and mobiles fully untethered, users will embrace this,” Goggin says in an e-mail. “Starbucks’ adoption of wireless charging will be helpful, but it really depends on a whole system, and network of chargers and charging stations being possible.”
Duracell Powermats installed at Starbucks and other chains sit on the store’s tabletops and look like flat coasters. They are accessible with smartphones such as the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy. Though you don’t need an outlet or a cord, many users will need a Duracell Wireless Battery Case or a Power Matters Alliance (PMA) portable battery to use the charging pads, at least for now.
Daniel Schreiber, president of Powermat Technologies, says he expects wireless-charging technology to be integrated into more phones. AT&T plans to do so next year.
McDonald’s has been testing wireless chargers at a handful of New York locations as well as across Europe. Delta Air Lines has placed them in New York’s LaGuardia Airport in Delta Sky Club lounges and the Marine Air Terminal, where the Delta Shuttle operates.
More than 550 charging stations are available at Madison Square Garden. And the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, a coffee and tea retailer in 24 countries, is testing wireless chargers at several Los Angeles locations.
Rapper Jay-Z had them installed at his 40/40 Club in New York.
“People look at their phones at noon, 2 in the afternoon, and notice their battery is drained,” Schreiber says. “If we added wireless power to surfaces, you’d never run out of power. It would be replenishing your battery throughout the day.”
Goggin says wireless devices could play an integral role in the future of phone charging: “Wireless chargers are a great idea, and, if practical and cheap, will become part of mobile phone culture.”