Hands-on with FreePower’s new wireless charging for your countertops

I recently remodeled my kitchen, and my first thought during the design process was, “Can I embed wireless charging in my new quartzite countertop?” But I couldn’t find a solution that didn’t involve sticking bulky black boxes under the counter and requiring precise placement of my phone on a vast counter landscape. I wish I’d waited a year or two.

This week at KBIS, the annual Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas, FreePower launched its latest technology: wireless Qi charging built into countertops.

FreePower for Countertop puts all the technology into a slimline device that fits inside stone or wood countertops. Once installed and powered (hardwired or plugged in), it can charge up to three devices simultaneously at Qi2 speeds — up to 15W per device — and is compatible with all major devices, including phones from Apple, Samsung, and Google.

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A Pixel, iPhone, and Samsung Galaxy all charging away. (The fan was working hard!)Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

I‘m not in Vegas, but FreePower sent me a sample to check out a couple of days ago, and it certainly feels like the future of wirelessly charging your phones, headphones, and whatever other devices jump on the Qi charging bandwagon. Not only is it convenient, just drop it anywhere in the designated area on the counter, but it also entirely eliminates any visible charging clutter, such as cables, pads, or those weird angular stands that just look silly when there’s no phone on them.

The 12 x 8-inch slab of stone FreePower sent me is about an inch thick, with the FreePower charger embedded in it. While I could see the device when I flipped the stone over, it wasn’t visible from any other angle when placed on my desk. A rectangular LED “Charging Halo” — about 9 inches x 5.5 inches — outlines the area powered by the device’s multi-coil charging array. You can place any Qi-capable device anywhere in this area to charge it.

The Halo is subtle, glowing a warm white (the color is customizable via an app). It can also be turned off entirely, activated when you need it with a “wave to wake” feature FreePower has developed that uses the wireless charging coils to sense when you wave your hand over the charger. The rest of the time, your countertop looks just like a countertop. (The app that controls this isn’t available yet, so I couldn’t try this out.)

In use, the charger recognized any wireless-capable phone I put on it and started charging within a second or two. But the noise from the built-in fan was immediately noticeable. When I added another phone, it bumped up the decibels. Having your countertop whir might be a bit of a deal-breaker — especially in the bedroom — but the payoff is no weird-angled gadgets on your countertops and a cable-free life.

Place your gadget anywhere inside the Halo, and it will receive power.

The “free” in FreePower comes from its unusual capability for free positioning. You can place your gadget anywhere inside the Halo, and it will receive power. I could just squeeze three phones side by side, and there’s plenty of space if you’re charging a single phone and AirPods case.

FreePower’s technology involves using overlapping arrays of coils, so there’s no need to place a device precisely over one charging coil, as is common with most wireless charging products. FreePower was originally inspired by Apple’s AirPower, the fruit company’s attempt to create a wireless charging pad that could simultaneously charge an iPhone, iPod, and Apple Watch, all on one surface. Apple canceled AirPower in 2019, and FreePower debuted on Shark Tank in 2020 as Aira. FreePower’s tech has since been used in the Nomad Base Station and the $300 Tesla Wireless Charging Platform.

The tech inside the FreePower device.

Image: FreePower

As cool as its latest product is, it’s probably not coming to your home anytime soon. FreePower for Countertop isn’t an off-the-shelf product. It has to be integrated by a fabricator when you install your countertops, something you may only do once or twice in your lifetime. FreePower also hasn’t released any pricing.

However, if you happen to be in the midst of a remodel, FreePower is already working with some fabricators and designers and has started a certification process for fabricators to learn how to install the tech.

The wireless charging device can be installed in natural stone, engineered stone, or wood countertops, and FreePower says the software is upgradeable, so it should be able to keep pace with innovations in wireless charging for a few years. Once it’s obsolete, however, the hardware can be swapped out without replacing your countertops since it’s not fully encased in the stone.

FreePower can be embedded in stone (natural or engineered) and wood countertops.

Image: FreePower

A future where there are little glowing Halos on my bedside counter, my bathroom counter, and my kitchen counter, in place of clunky-looking wireless charging stands and cable clutter everywhere, is one I want to live in.

By 111 Tech

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