Google likes to skate to where the puck might be next game. They were first in the U.S. with a viable NFC payments solution (that isn’t very popular) and they’ve been at the forefront of AR with Glass (which is too expensive for the average consumer) and now they’re one of the first to market with a wireless charging solution for the Nexus 4.
Wireless charging has been far too slow on the uptake, but that’s to be expected. Beyond a very few very specific situations, the technology is slow, and in the case of Google’s Qi-based solution, the device has to be statically placed at a certain position on the charging pad. The Qi standard has some ways around that particularly onerous requirement – if you have to stick it in a certain place, why not just plug in a cable – but to complain about it is to miss the point.
Every port, dock, and transformer requires resources and real estate. Apple reduced the 30-pin port not because it wanted to piss off the millions of iPod dock owners out there. In order to reduce size and footprint they had to abandon the arguably huge 30-pin solution for the arguably more elegant Lightning port.
Imagine, then, what could happen if there were no ports at all? The headphone jack could free up a few millimeters in thickness and the wireless charging solution could save an additional bit of electronics. It’s not much, but it adds up.
I find it quite odd that Google is actually backing a standard other than Qi with Starbucks but I suspect, in the Powermat case, this is more a question of branding and cash payouts than anything else. I’ve found Powermat to be surprisingly shortsighted and inelegant over the past few years and it’s obviously not Duracell’s wish to completely move away from battery sales so I’m loath to trust them to be a good partner in the wireless power world.
I, for one, am glad that Google pushes things forward with these little technical tricks. They’re usually the first to the party but showing up early only counts for so much. They need to put cash into partnerships with points of sale in the case of NFC and some sort of public charging solution for Nexus users in order to convince the rest of the world that wireless charging is actually cool. Then they’ll really be creating a brave new world built mostly in Mountain View rather than Cupertino.