back to article Why can't a mobile be more like a cordless kettle?

When Dick Powell, ace designer and co-founder of SeymourPowell, designed the Tefal Freeline, the world’s first cordless kettle, it wasn’t for the likes of you and me. The thinking behind it was that while most people could cope with a power lead, those with restricted mobility could not. The ease of use that it delivered, …

  1. Franco Silver badge

    I use a Lumia 925 myself and thought it was a bit of a gimmick. Then when I dropped my phone and it bounced onto 3 out of 4 corners I got the wireless charging cover to hide the damage and thought I might as well get the plate as well. I also ended up getting one for my Nexus 7. I go to bed at night, put the phone on it's plate, and pick it up again in the morning charged. I am no longer adding to the scratches around the USB port and can safely say that my next phone will have native Qi support rather than the cover add-on that the 925 uses.

  2. PaulyV


    I still run my Lumia 920 and dearly loved the wireless charging which was built in to the phone's casing. Alas after a Nokia automatic update (not the windows one) the charging simply stopped working. Oddly enough it turns the phone on when placed on the charger, but doesn't charge any further.

    I know this isn't a technical forum, but you know, though'd I'd mention it just in case.

    The additional charger wasn't cheap - pressed my sister into getting me one for Christmas that year, but really handy to have one next to the work PC so the phone effectively charges whenever I place it down. I am often surprised it is seen as a gimmick.

    1. dogged

      Re: Nokia

      Do a full backup and then update your ROM using this thing

      Nokia firmware updater to whatever's latest.

      That should fix any firmware issues.

      1. PaulyV

        Re: Nokia

        You're a gent. Thank you.

        1. ZSn

          Re: Nokia

          It also sorts out the windows 8.1 preview problems - my phone wouldn't update to the full 8.1 without that.

  3. ZSn


    The problem with some of these plates is that they can be exorbitant, more than 50 euros for a charging plate (at least a fancy one like the ones described) scatter a few of those around and you have the price of a new phone. That said I am looking at possible cheap ones and a charging plate for a lumia 925 to see how it goes. I suspect once I get used to it I too will loathe to go back to cables...

    1. Franco Silver badge

      Re: Pricing

      ZSn - I tried my Lumia 925 with the no-name pad I got from Amazon for my Nexus 7 and it doesn't charge properly, but works perfectly with the Nokia pad. YMMV.

      1. ZSn

        Re: Pricing

        Did you manage to find any back plates that cover the entire backplate not just the corners like some sort of mankini?

        1. Franco Silver badge

          Re: Pricing

          No, but I did find a video on YouTube showing you how to take the charging coil out of the case and fit it directly into the phone which I've now done.

    2. Bassey

      Re: Pricing

      Picked mine up for about a tenner of eBay (slightly more than £10 but it was 18 months ago so I forget exactly). Worked perfectly with my Nexus 4 and there was no need to position it exactly. As the author says, you begin to regard plugging a phone in as ridiculously antiquated and I can't believe, so long after it first appeared, that wireless charging isn't already THE standard.

  4. AndrueC Silver badge

    What's the power transfer efficiency like? I vaguely recall seeing figures of 40%. If true that would more than double the amount of power needed to charge your phone.

    Ideally, I would have taken the small charging plate in the car but the system needs 1700mAh

    Ah, so prolly about 60% efficiency then.

    1. Arbee

      Yeah - but we measure phone batteries in terms of milliamps, so it's sort of not worth caring about...

      1. AndrueC Silver badge

        Yeah - but we measure phone batteries in terms of milliamps, so it's sort of not worth caring about...

        You can measure any current in milliamps but it's also true to say that most phone batteries are multiples of a thousand milliamps, otherwise known as multiples of an amp. My phone battery is 4300mAh - also known as 4Ah.

        How many wireless phones do we expect to see being charged? A million? Ten million? Even one milliamp becomes one thousand amps if a million devices are drawing that current.

        1. Arbee

          Nonsense. It takes a couple of kWh of electricity to charge a phone once a day for a whole year! Let's be pessimistic and say you're half as efficient wireless charging - oh no, you've had to spend another 50p for the year. That's gonna make an impact on my £800 pa electricity bill!

          Yes, if you aggregate it over ten million people it starts to sound like a lot, but it's roughly equivalent to everyone making one more cup of tea a month - i.e. irrelevant.


  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Plates are cheap

    Yes, you can buy the branded ones for a fortune, but you can get no-name Chinese plates for under £20 on Amazon - which work brilliantly. There is even one for the car which holds it in place like a satnav (although I have the fifty quid Nokia one as I didn't see the cheaper one first :( )

    Now you can get wireless external batteries as well, you can charge on the move.

    No excuse for not having them all over the place. Should be in every phone. I pity the primitives still using wires!

  6. jabuzz

    You aready can

    A "cordless" kettle has to be placed on a special base. Funny because I can simply drop my Z1 Compact onto a special base just the same. In fact "charging bases" exist for the whole Xperia Z line up. In the past I had something similar for a Nokia 6310i. So to answer your question mobile phones can be more like a cordless kettle, that yours is not is down to the choice you made when you purchased the device, just like you can still buy corded kettles.

    1. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: You aready can

      Much like every cordless phone in existence too. I had a similar charging dock for a Nokia 8310 and miss it dreadfully.

    2. tfewster

      Re: You aready can

      So your special base probably takes up about 6" squared of precious desk space and you need several as they're not easily portable?

      I use a much more advanced mechanism called a "USB cable" - cheap, portable, efficient, multifunctional, easy to operate one handed, standardised, and the phone can be used while charging - clearly the way to go*

      * Unless phone manufacturers are going the way of HP printers, accessories manufacturers who occasionally make a phone to leverage their add-on sales

  7. jaywin

    If you have a Lumia 930 or 830 you can get a free portable wireless charger from Microsoft at the moment.

  8. Hellcat

    Electric kettles?

    Whatever will they think of next?

    Mine's the one on the double burner ring in the middle of my stove.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Electric kettles?

      My cordless kettles are cast iron & stainless steel respecively and need no docking station - other than the Hob / top of stove / fire-pit they have been around a bit longer than the electric ones corded or not. If I put my phone on the hob at No. 3 will it charge?

  9. Mage Silver badge

    cordless kettles

    They are DOCKED kettles. None are really cordless.

    Professional Mobile radio and DECT phones have used easy to drop in DOCKs, identical concept to a Cordless Kettle (none are wireless).

    Wireless, which is usually nearly no contact inductive (none in production use Radio), charging is just stupid gimmick for fashonista technophiles that like stuff like DAB radio or "Home Theatre" using stupid plastic speakers barely better than a 1960s pocket Hong Kong radio.

    Just design decent docks, that have HDMI, USB (host & slave), Stereo Line out and mic in sockets, in similar style to a DECT phone dock.

    Forget the pointless "wireless" charger mats!

    1. dan1980

      Re: cordless kettles


      While I agree that docks are be great*, they tend to be phone-specific. Sure, more phone use USB now so that is standard but the dimensions are variable which would make generic docks more fiddly when inserting the phone. Most specifically, thickness and placement of the USB port on the phone matter quite a lot and means you have to make the dock twice as wide as the widest phone to ensure that ports located on the far left and right edges can be accommodated. This obviously rules out guides to allow you to just slot the phone in without lining it up first.

      So, you end up with one dock per phone or phone family, which is fine but does lose one benefit of wireless charging, which is that any phone or tablet that has wireless charging should work, provided they all use the same standard.

      So yes, docks are good but not a replacement for wireless charging.

      * - I hacked one together myself using a cheap phone holder, a drill, some spare plastic and glue.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: cordless kettles

        There could be a docking standard. How does ISS work?

  10. Pen-y-gors Silver badge


    "Ideally, I would have taken the small charging plate in the car but the system needs 1700mAh and the USB I was testing is designed for connecting memory sticks to play and didn’t have the necessary oomph."

    I've got a rather neat little adapter with two USB sockets on that plugs into the 'cigarette lighter' - damn handy for charging things on the go.

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Cars

      I bought a device that you describe without reading the specs too closely. Turns out to be current limited to 500mA per port, which is insufficient to charge my present phone (it won't switch to "charge" mode).

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Cars

        Devices with more capacity are available. I've got one that does 2A from one socket and 1A fro the other. Both will charge my phone.

        But I have a problem with the stability of the voltage. Just charging the phone is great, but if I plug the 3.5" jack into the radio to play music from the phone at the same time as I'm charging, electrical noise from the car's electrical system gets through to the phone and renders any quiet audio un-listenable.

        I'm just wondering whether I should fork out for a branded adapter, although the one I'm using was not a pound shop special. Anybody any idea whether Belkin et. al. actually make their adapters using better components, or whether they just slap their name on the same old tat and charge a higher price

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Qi (pronouched Chee)

    Well why the fuck didn't they spell it Chee? Were the inventors Welsh of something?

    Although all credit to Simon Rockman for "pronouched". I hope that wasn't a typo.

    1. eurobloke

      Re: Qi (pronounced chee)

      The word is from Mandarin for air 气, and the spelling is from pinyin (qì).

      1. Omgwtfbbqtime

        Re: Qi (pronounced chee)

        Depending on where you source the word from its usually Chi or Qi interchangeably.

        Chi Kung = Qi Gong

        1. Alien8n

          Re: Qi (pronounced chee)

          So the next version will be Obi Wan?

    2. Oldfogey

      Re: Qi (pronouched Chee)

      Not Welsh - Welsh doesn't have a letter Q

      (Finally, I get to use the pedant icon!

  12. Peter Galbavy

    Bought a double charging plate from a French company - name escapes me - for about £50 and a charging coil for my Samsung Note II. Now I place my Note and Nexus 7 on the charger next to my bed at night and, assuming a cat hasn't moved either one, all happy in the morning.

    Once they get the standards set for higher current charging then laptops will also get more interesting.

  13. Pat 11

    You've missed the point

    "...most of the tech industry likes cables. They mean you can charge and transfer data at the same time."

    Actually cables mean you can charge and do everything at the same time. I don't want to run out of charge (happens a lot still with smartphones) and have to stop using the device because it's going for a lie down on its special electric cushion. Wireless charging will be more useful when it happens inside a reasonably large volume, not just on a small plane.

    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      Re: You've missed the point

      What's needed is some sort of head-mounted induction plate so you can charge the phone while you're talking on the phone. It might make your head warm, but that could be a feature!

  14. Oninoshiko

    Qi charging is the only thing that makes smartphones useable

    If it weren't easier to charge the thing all the time then not, the unbelievably low battery life (compared to my old phones) would be unbearable. With Qi charging it's not an issue...

    I guess that's kinda a backhanded complement, isn't it?

    1. Oldfogey

      Re: Qi charging is the only thing that makes smartphones useable

      No, it's a backhanded COMPLIMENT.

      2 pedant icons in one comment sequence. RIIIIGHT!!!!

      1. dan1980

        Re: Qi charging is the only thing that makes smartphones useable


        Most style guides recommend writers avoid beginning a sentence with a numeral. The preferred form is to write the number out ("Two pedant icons . . .") or, if the number is large and thus unwieldy in written form, to re-write the sentence.

        Rewriting the sentence might also provide us with an explicit verb.

        : )

  15. Friendly Neighbourhood Coder Dan

    Charging time?

    I have a nexus 4 which I believe could be charged this way, but never felt the need to.

    Out of curiosity, does it take longer - the same - less time?

    And does it just work or do I need to switch on extra stuff, like NFC? That would have even more impact on charging time, if necessary...

    1. Bassey

      Re: Charging time?

      It takes a bit more than twice as long but that's fine because, when charging requires absolutely no effort on your part you find you automatically change your behaviour. When you sit at your desk you just take the phone out and put it on the plate. It sits there trickle charging. Same when you get home. I have a plate on the coffee table in the living room. I sit down, the phone goes on the plate. It also means I'm not fidgeting about in my pockets every time the phone beeps. It is sat on the plate next to me, charging, and I just have to glance over at it to see if I can ignore it or it's actually something important.

      It probably doesn't matter how much others enthuse about it. As the writer of this piece suggests, you just need to experience it yourself and, when you do, I suspect you will end up buying 2 or 3 plates and wondering why the rest of the world hasn't cottoned on yet.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If I could sit in the car and my phone would charge from my pocket, that's awesome! If I can put it on the coffee table, use it for a bit, and then put it on the arm of the sofa - charging all the time - that too sounds awesome! If I have to put it in a very specific spot, on a very expensive mat, that I have to pack up and take with me when I go away, then I just don't get why that's better than a dock! And of course with the dock I can charge it in half the time, using less power, and can afford to have more docks lying around which means I can leave it in my pocket or on the arm of the sofa and not have to worry about charging, because the hour in its dock was plenty.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Dock?

      And the Dock can play back video or show web on the TV.

  17. Badger Murphy

    "two wireless charging factions – the Alliance for Wireless Power and the Wireless Power Consortium"

    I propose we henceforth refer to these two organizations as The Judean People's Front and The People's Front of Judea

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: "two wireless charging factions"

      F**k off... Splitter

  18. John Tserkezis

    I use qi because it's cheap. The other options are either not available or pricedly stupid.

    That said, with the case on my phone and the additonal distance involved, the positioning is so tightly restricted, I have to vary it by millimetres to get the phone to admit it's charging.

    If it's particularly tempremental one day, I give up and use the USB charger instead.

    It still has some work to go.

  19. Richard Cranium

    Wife has a Doro phone with a drop-in charging dock which seems even easier to use than my Nexus5 with Qi plate (because with a cover on the phone, correct positioning on the plate needs a bit of care)

  20. Adolph Clickbait

    Don't need one

    My phone lasts all day, I cane it too (not all day natch)

  21. Joel 1

    Give a phone enough cable...

    I bought myself a 10ft braided cover lightning cable. Works brilliantly - when charging in bed I have complete freedom to use it at the same time should I want to change alarm, browse the web, read an ebook etc. I used to have a dock, but actually consider the long cable much more useful.

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