Creating a wireless charger capable of powering up multiple devices at once may have flummoxed Apple. But the folks at a company called Spansive think their new charger can deliver a lot of what AirPower promised, at least when it comes to smartphones.
The company has released the Spansive Source, a $189 wireless charger that can hold up to four Qi-compatible phones at once. Instead of a flat pad, the Source features an a-frame design where you prop your phone against the side of the charger, with a ridge on the base keeping handsets from sliding off.
While most wireless charging pads can be pretty demanding about where you place your phone — miss the exact spot, and your phone won't charge — that's not an issue with the Source, which boasts a drop-and-charge feature. I had a chance to place a couple different phones onto the Sources's charging area, and each time they started charging no matter where I set them down.
The Source can also work its charging voodoo through cases and accessories — Spansive claims it works with "nearly all phone cases." During my demo of the Source, I saw it charging an iPhone XS inside a 3mm leather case, another iPhone inside one of Otterbox's thick Defender cases, and even a phone with a PopSocket stuck on its back that seemed to keep the device from coming into full contact with the Source's charging area.
The magic comes down to what Spansive co-founder and CEO John MacDonald described as software-defined induction technology. Essentially, the Source uses that technology to create a three-dimensional wireless charging field that senses were you've placed phones on the device. The charging field is then adjust to accommodate those phones.
The Source's coil arrangement also differs from typical charging pads by turning the entire surface of the device into a charging area. "We've got custom coils, multiple coils and circuitry we've designed ourselves," MacDonald said.
There's a single power cable leading into the Spansive Source, and the device connects to your home Wi-Fi network. That allows Spansive to send software updates that can improve wireless charging speeds and range as well as add compatibility with other devices.
That's key because while the Source uses the Qi wireless charging standard, it's only certified to work with iPhones (the iPhone 8 and later) and Samsung devices (any Galaxy S phone since Galaxy S7 as well as the Note 8 and Note 9). Spansive expects to add support for other smartphones over time, and the Source could also support future tablets that offer wireless charging.
In addition to its wireless charging features, the Source has two USB ports, which would seemingly contradict its "Look, Ma, no wires" ethos. But the ports are there to power up older phones that may not support wireless charging, handsets that are not yet certified to work with the Source and smartwatches, which wouldn't seem to work with the Source in its current form.
Spansive's Source is available in charcoal or white, and orders are shipping now.