There was a wireless charger that was going to challenge this notion: AirPower by Apple. It was said to be capable of charging multiple devices, without needing to place your iPhone, Apple Watch, or AirPods case in a specific area. Apple canceled the project after hitting a few roadblocks, but rumors suggest the company is still working on it.
Aira figured out what Apple couldn’t. FreePower technology allows for full surface freedom. That means you can place your device anywhere on the wireless charging mat and it will juice up, no careful placement needed. The first company making use of FreePower is Nomad with the Base Station Pro, but Aira says it will have more products soon from other manufacturers and in different form factors. It also wants to put this technology everywhere: airports, coffee shops, and other public spaces.
This “full surface freedom” is accomplished with multiple coils in a wireless charger—18, specifically, on the Base Station Pro. The charger can accurately pinpoint where devices are placed, quickly couple them with coils, and offer just the right amount of power each device needs. For iPhones, the charger will deliver the maximum 7.5 watts Apple allows. For Android phones, you’re limited to 5 watts. For smaller devices like AirPods, it can be around 2 watts, depending on what the device asks for.
FreePower comes with another benefit too. Traditional wireless chargers are inefficient, continuously searching for a device to power. Aira claims these standard chargers can use up to 130 iPhone 11 charging cycles worth of power in a 30-day period. So you might think that a wireless charger with 18 coils might be even worse, right? Wrong. Aira’s says its tech generates 1.7 iPhone 11 charging cycles worth of power in the same period of time per coil, totaling around 30.6. While that’s still a lot of wasted power, it’s vastly lower than the inefficient chargers of today.
The Nomad wireless charger that houses all of this tech is one of the most attractive wireless chargers I’ve seen, especially considering it can charge up to three devices simultaneously. It’s extremely thin, has an aluminum chassis, and it’s topped off with an elegant leather layer. There are three LEDs that indicate whether or not a device is getting power, and the charger itself is powered by an included 30-watt power adapter and a USB-C cable.
Fitting three phones side-by-side is a stretch, but I was able to charge two phones and the AirPods Pro without a problem. I moved the phones around, slid the AirPods case to a different area of the mat, and still, all the devices kept charging. Out of habit I still looked hard and made sure my devices were getting power, but I imagine over time I’ll be more carefree.
This system still isn’t perfect. First, charging is very slow. That might be unsurprising since wired charging has always delivered superior speeds, but the Base Station Pro is even slower than most other wireless chargers out there. It might be able to charge your iPhone at the fastest possible speeds, but Android phones will take several hours to go from zero to 100 percent.
Other wireless chargers on the market are able to output 15 watts or more to recharge Android phones, but the Base Station Pro is limited to 5 watts for Android handsets. Eric Goodchild, co-founder of Aira, says most wireless chargers spend very little time at that 15-watt charging rate. Eventually, things get too hot and the phone or device throttles charging speeds to stay below a certain temperature.