Motorola’s Over-the-Air Wireless Charging Tech Might Be Cool, but Probably Won’t Be Fast

Motorola's "Space Charging" solution can charge up to four devices at the same time from 10 feet away.

CREDIT: Screenshot: YouTube/Motorola

Over-the-air wireless charging is the dream—after all, who doesn’t want to charge their phone without plugging it in? Gadget-makers have attempted to bring the technology to market and make it a daily reality, though there’s still work to be done and regulatory hurdles to clear.

Following Xiaomi and Oppo, Motorola is the latest smartphone manufacturer to showcase its over-the-air wireless charging technology. Its claim to fame is that it can juice up several devices at a time, and it’s capable of quite an impressive range.

Motorola developed its wireless power solution, called “Space Charging,” in collaboration with GuRu Wireless, which announced its partnership with Motorola earlier this year. Salom Electric is also working with the companies on the wireless charging tech, and appears to be a manufacturing partner.

We already knew Motorola was working on this technology, but this is the first live presentation of its capabilities. Motorola’s video demonstration at parent company Lenovo’s Tech World event this week begins with a look at the central charging station, which looks like an enterprise-level router. As it pans out, a model introduces four smartphones into the scene. As they place each one into its holder, the battery indicator shows that the phone is charging.

The video then shows varying distances to demonstrate Space Charging’s long-range charging abilities, from one to three meters. For the imperial measurement crowd, that means devices equipped with the corresponding chip can charge from nearly 10 feet away from the battery base.

The technology behind remote wireless charging is similar to that of wifi and mesh networking. Instead of physically placing your phone on a particular charging base, you can walk into a room with a base station present, and your devices should charge up.

Motorola goes into more detail in its Weibo profile: “No charging cable is required, and no need to consider the location of the power source,” the image says. Motorola adds that the base has a 100-degree “wide-angle” coverage and that it can charge phones “through obstacles such as paper and leather.” Additionally, there’s a “phased array composed of 1,600 antennas” in the base station.

Perhaps most interesting is the mention of built-in “bio-monitoring,” which can identify when a person has stepped into the room. “After recognizing the human body, it will avoid/stop blocking part of the charging beam.”

Motorola already has some competition for its Space Charging technology, at least overseas. Oppo teased its Wireless Air Charging in February, though it’s limited to a mere 4-inch range. Xiaomi’s version is called Mi Air Charge Technology, which also claims to be able to power multiple devices at the same time. And then there’s Ossia, which the Federal Communications Commission recently cleared in the U.S., but only for up to three feet of charging distance.

It’s not likely we’ll see Motorola’s Space Charging technology—or any other over-the-air wireless charging solutions—implemented any time soon. As CNET reports, there is a difference in regulations between regions. Companies like Ossia, for example, are limited in charging range in the U.S., whereas in the E.U. and U.K., the range is unlimited. There’s also the proprietary aspect to consider, one of the pitfalls of early wireless charging technologies.

We also don’t know how fast Motorola’s over-the-air charging speeds will be. Would anyone want to use bleeding-edge charging technology if it’s slower than a wired connection? Qi-based wireless charging solutions are still pretty sluggish, and Digital Chat Station claims Motorola’s Space Charging tops out at 5W, which is paltry compared to the average fast-charging speed of at least 18W. (We’ve reached out to Motorola and GuRu to confirm Space Charging’s speeds and will update this story if/when we hear back.)

For comparison, Oppo’s over-the-air solution is 7.5W, and Xiaomi’s is 5W. Compared to the OnePlus 30W wireless charging dock I use nightly, walking into a room and automatically charging my phone via air seems like more of a party trick than a useful solution.