Imagine a world where you’re walking with your Xperia XZs Mark II Premium Plus and you’re low on charge. What’s one to do? Plug in via USB-C? Too 2016. Place said phone on a wireless charger? Not a chance. Instead in this ultra-futuristic world, Sony would have your phone borrow charge from other devices. According to a patent filed in 2016:
The distances over which the wireless communication can be achieved is typically consistent with distances used for wireless electrical power transfer through the power transfer antenna. In some embodiments, one or more of the communications antennas are low power communications antennas having a communication distance that is limited in range.
Some embodiments are configured to communicate in accordance with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Near Field Communications (NFC), Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), Internet Protocol (IP), High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI), and/or other such communication protocols and the range of communication is consistent with these standards.
The idea is neat in a few ways though it’s not the first time we’ve seen Sony go down this route. With PS3, the vision was that many devices would utilize the Cell Processor they developed with Toshiba and as you owned more devices equipped with it, the more powerful they each became.
In this vision, the same concept applies which would mean that in order for the idea to even work, you’d have to have a friend who was A. willing to let go of some of their battery to charge your phone and B. own a device capable of doing this.
This of course presents a few challenges, the first being that you’d have to run into somebody owning a Sony phone which, if we look at yearly Xperia sales, it’s not likely to happen which means what Sony could really be after is licensing the tech and hopefully standardizing it.
Now I’m not a betting man but I’d say the chances of Apple and Samsung coming on board with something like this are likely next to nothing. Still, something worth keeping in mind is that with most patent filings like this, it’s less likely that Sony actually planned to incorporate this in future devices and instead it was filed as a defensive move on their part. And if not that, sometimes a similar technology based off this patent shows itself years down the line.
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One thing I should note however is a slightly different take on this wireless charging vision that Sony could be a part of. One of the biggest challenges in mobile, be it your Xperia phone, Apple Watch, or Nintendo DS, is battery technology. That’s to say that in the last decade or so, not much has changed. In fact the only reason we’re getting better battery life on our devices is due to miniaturization of other hardware and optimization of software so we can fit that empty slot with bigger batteries.
So unless there is a battery breakthrough, one possibility of the future is that our mobile devices are able to take wireless charge on the go with bigger, more stationary devices acting as wireless charging anchors. For example, what if the technology described above was not incorporated in a mobile phone which already has limited battery but in our TVs and cars? Now when sitting at home watching TV, your phone could be automatically and wirelessly charging or when on the go, the next Uber you catch can trickle the much needed battery your watch desires without you having to do a thing.
In this world, the patent filed by Sony makes much more sense and has the ability to profoundly change the technology landscape. Imagine what more our mobile devices could do if they weren’t limited by current battery technology. If that’s the type of wireless charging Sony’s working towards, then sign me up.