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When will wireless charging hit UK restaurants and cafés?

Mobile phones have had the ability to wirelessly suck power from special charging pads for years now, but despite analyst predictions pointing to a massive wireless charging boom in 2013/2014, there’s been no signs of the chargers in UK pubs, restaurants or cafes – until recently.

So which UK services offer wireless charging right now?

Starbucks will begin offering Powermat wireless charging at ten of its central London locations by the end of January, allowing punters to top up their phone’s battery while they’re spending a tenner on a super mega grande coffee and a tiny slice of brownie.

To make use of the complimentary system, Starbucks customers have to stick a donut-shaped dongle into their device and then place it on to one of the charging mats, which will be scattered throughout the cafes. The dongles will be available to borrow in-store (or in due course, buy for a tenner) and they support both iOS and Android devices.

If you’re curious to try the service out, the Starbucks stores due to be kitted-out with Powermat technology are Princes Street, Kingsway, Wardour Street, Pentonville Road, Harewood Place, Berkeley Street, Great Portland Street, Moorgate, Fleet Street and Euston Tower, with more locations expected to add more in the near future.

However, Starbucks isn’t the only UK company to offer wireless phone charging to customers. McDonalds recently announced that it will install 600 Aircharge points in 50 of its restaurants in the UK, allowing users with Qi-enabled hardware to top off their batteries while they munch on delicious just-like-it-was-killed-and-cooked-in-front-of-you burgers.

All the same, our American cousins are already well ahead of the game when it comes to public wireless charging spots. Powermat will soon be offered as standard in 200 Starbucks locations across the San Francisco Bay area and the Seattle-based company has promised to bring wireless charging to all of its 11,100 stores in the long term.

Why hasn’t wireless charging taken off in the UK yet?

Quite a few modern smartphones support wireless charging, with the early adopters such as Nokia’s Lumia 820 and 920 appearing on shelves over two years ago. It’s even possible to adapt standard phones to support wireless charging, without too much expense.

However, as with all relatively new tech, there’s a problem with competition between the different standards.

At the present time there are two major standards for wireless charging, the Alliance for Wireless Power standard and the Power Matters Alliance standard. Both offer plenty of benefits, and while the PMA standard utilises more open technology, the A4WP standard is supported in more smartphones.

Bugger. So is wireless charging ever likely to be widely adopted in the UK?

Thankfully, PMA and A4WP have finally struck an accord and are set to merge, so both hardware and accessory manufacturers should soon be able to pump out products using the exact same tech. That should ultimately benefit the consumer, as smaller businesses are much more likely to invest in wireless charging tech for customers if the lion’s share of them can make use of it.

Sadly it won’t be all plain sailing following the PMA and A4WP merger. A third standard, backed by Samsung and Qualcomm, has emerged to try and claim a slice of the market.

And the technology is likely to explode (not literally hopefully) in the coming years, offering a much improved service. Microsoft’s own truly wireless AutoCharge system is on the horizon, which is able to charge devices without the need for a pad, case or any other addition. And once we have wireless charging with the range of WiFi, our phones could be powered up in our pockets while we sip our overpriced lattes.


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