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Over-the-air wireless charging is finally coming — here’s your first look

Xiaomi Mi Air Charge
(Image credit: Xiaomi)

We’ve all been hearing about wireless charging for years now, but it has its limits. Your phone isn’t tethered to a cable, but it’s still forced to sit on a pad or a stand. What if there was a better way?

Xiaomi says it has the answer with Mi Air Charge, which takes the concept of wireless charging to its next logical evolution. Recharging phones in the air, without needing any cables or pads to do it.

The Air Charge system works thanks to an array of sensors inside a charging base station and your phone. Compatible phones have a beacon that transmits its location, which the charger can pick up with five phase interface antennas. Once the base knows where your phone is, the charger uses 144 other antennas to transmit millimeter-wide waves towards 14 receivers inside the phone. The phone then converts the waves to electricity, which keeps the battery recharged.

The whole system sounds quite spectacular, though there are some caveats to recharging your phone from a distance.

For starters, the charger is quite large, around the size of a small fridge or dresser, which you’d need to find space for. In addition, Xiaomi Mi Air Charge is limited to 5W charging speeds, which is a far cry from the 100 wired charging you can get on some Xiaomi devices.

For comparison, the iPhone 12 series MagSafe wireless charging supports up to 15W. But, again, it's not true wireless charging. 

We also don’t know how efficient this method of recharging is, and how that’s going to affect the longevity of your phone. Early fast and wireless charging systems were notorious for producing excess heat, which would speed up the usual degradation of the battery. 

There’s also the question of range. Xiaomi Mi Charge has a range of "several meters," according to the company. So you can't stray too far from the base. 

Still, the prospect of recharging your phone like this is quite exciting. It adds some freedom to the whole wireless charging process, because your phone isn’t tied to a single spot. Your handset doesn’t need to be plugged into a power outlet, or perfectly positioned on a wireless charging pad. 

There’s no telling when Xiaomi might introduce Mi Air Charge to one of its phones, but the fact it’s publicly revealed the technology is an encouraging sign. I’m just hoping it arrives soon, and isn’t ludicrously expensive.

Tom Pritchard

Tom covers a little bit of everything at Tom’s Guide, ranging from the latest electric cars all the way down to hot takes on why Christopher Nolan is wrong about everything. Appliances are also muscling their way into his routine, which is a pretty long way from his days as Editor at Gizmodo UK. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.