What is wireless charging and when can I have it?

We all want the latest and greatest when it comes to technology, and wireless charging is no different. How amazing would it be to just plop your phone on a specific spot on your desk or nightstand and have the battery go from that hideous red to beautiful green? Ideal world, right?

We aren’t entirely there yet, but the technology is being developed. Surprisingly enough, the idea started in 1899—no, that is NOT a typo—with none other than Nikola Tesla, that genius. He believed that one day, power would be transferred around the planet without a need for cables or cords, and he’s not far off. It took over 100 years, but his lofty idea has finally been realized.

So how does it work? Induction! The basis of all modern wireless charging uses an electromagnetic field to transfer power between two objects, like when you use your smartphone to pay at the grocery store and how your Bose SoundLink plays your music at the weekly pool party.

Unfortunately, most induction chargers operate optimally over a short distance. While physical contact between a device and its base unit isn’t necessary for induction to work, the fields lose so much power as the devices get farther away that it’s most useful to keep them as close together as possible. Think about your electric toothbrush: perfect example of induction charging. Induction hardware can be safely encased in thick plastic and still work, meaning you won’t shock yourself while brushing your pearly whites. And the electromagnetic fields create nothing more dangerous than radio waves, and it isn’t strong enough to have an effect on the human body. To be honest, plugging and unplugging a cable is technically more dangerous because it could fray and shock you. So the danger with induction is incredibly minimal.

So why don’t we all have massive induction chargers powering everything, everywhere? Cords are so annoying! Well, the process is slow going. Induction charging takes longer than traditional cord charging, and the process creates a lot of waste heat, so several wireless charging docks on the market now have fans built in to minimize the risk of overheating.

And from a more practical standpoint, you can easily use your phone to browse social media or catch up on emails while it’s plugged into your 12-foot long charging cord, but with a base charging station, you’ll have to sacrifice using your device while it charged itself in solitude. I don’t know if we can manage without our devices for that long, am I right?

Good news is, we’ve made a significant start. And in the future, wall-sized charge stations may be able to transmit power to multiple devices in several rooms in your house, and we’ll be free from cords once and for all. Nikola Tesla would be so proud.