Nexus 4 gains Touchstone charging thanks to clever hacking | webOS Nation
 
 

Nexus 4 gains Touchstone charging thanks to clever hacking 9

by Derek Kessler Fri, 19 Apr 2013 8:26 am EDT

Nexus 4 gains Touchstone charging care of clever hacking

I recently added a LG Nexus 4 to my smartphone rotation, and yes, that's an Android device. It's a nicely-designed phone and feels good in the hand, and as an added bonus to an old school Palm aficionado like myself, comes with built-in wireless charging in the form of Qi. For those unfamiliar, Qi is similar to Touchstone in that it's an inductive charging system, except that it's a standard that multiple manufacturers support with an array of cross-compatible devices and chargers.

There's just one problem with Qi: there are no magnets for alignment and traction. Also, Qi isn't compatible with Touchstone, so I've now got four mobile device chargers going at once on my desk: phone Touchstone, tablet Touchstone, ElevationDock for iPhone, a new Nexus 4 Wireless Charger, and a Micro USB cable for all my devices not fortunate enough to be graced with wireless charging or a dock. As a Palm fan, that Nexus 4 Wireless Charger has been a particular point of contention for me thanks to its inherent inability to hold on to my Nexus 4, no matter how much I clean the back of the phone and the top of the charger (as the comments in my post on Android Central indicate, not everybody has this issue with the Nexus 4 Wireless Charger, but I'm also not alone in my problems).

Enter Rod Whitby, a man that's no stranger to the webOS community as the chief of WebOS Internals. Whitby's also a man that loves to tinker, and he's taken to adding Touchstone charging to a wide range of devices, including an audacious hack that added dual Touchstone circuits to a Nexus 7 tablet.

Like me, Whitby was disappointed by the design of the Nexus 4 Wireless Charger (though, he has yet to get his hands on one, being in Australia and all). And being Rod Whitby, he took matters into his own hands and rather quickly opened up the back of the Nexus 4 and hacked in a Touchstone coil. What came out at the end he describes as "the world's first mult-wireless-charging phone," as the larger Qi coil still works with the Touchstone coil layered on top of it. Whitby reports that everything fit back together and that the phone is "fully operational". Additionally, in his testing the Touchstone charger seems to charge his Nexus 4 "significantly faster" than the Qi charger he has on hand.

While the phone can now charge from three different sources - Micro USB, Qi, and Touchstone - there's still work to be done. In particular, Whitby still needs to solve for this Touchstone hack the problem that afflicts the Nexus 4 Wireless Charger: he currently has the Touchstone coil installed but nothing to hold the Nexus 4 in place on the Touchstone charger. There are two options: install metal discs in the back of the Nexus 4 (Palm and HP webOS smartphones have metal discs that are drawn to the magnetic mass inside the Touchstone), or if that's not enough to keep the phone in place through its glass back, then small magnetic discs will be the order of the day.

So there you have it: even on a phone that's over a year removed from the last webOS devices and using the latest Qi wireless standards, the old standby Touchstone inductive charging system offers faster charging and a better user experience. It's one of the little things we're going to be able to crow about for years to come.

9 Comments

Rod Whitby = Legend

+1

+1

Try a screen saver on the back of the nexus 4 Derek. I dont like them on the front but it seems to give it just the right grip. I do agree with you its like technology went backwards with qi.

It's nice to see that the Touchstone is still being used.

I have moved on to the Lumia 920. I would love to see a way to use my touchstones with it. Any takers?

Rod Whitby does it again! I would suggest the same hack for the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S4 (hopefully no different than it was for the S3), and possibly the HTC one (trickier because it does not have a removable back), since many webOS aficionados will likely have one of these flagship android phones in their regular rotation.

I read Derrek's comments on Android central, and it made me realize how much we take for granted with our webOS devices. Many columns have said that inductive charging is not a big deal, and I've read so many comments saying why would you need it...
but I see my coworkers fumbling to find their chargers, and try to borrow another's to "plug in" for a while, and I laugh. I take calls on my phone at my desk all day, I never have to wonder if I have enough battery left, and I don't have to crouch by the wall to take a call because I need to leave it plugged in for an hour while it charges.

Battery is the weakness of all smartphones, and some are better than others. But for me, its such an immense convenience, to never have to worry about my battery, and having to tether to charge it if I use it too much.

I have a touchstone in the living room, I have a touchstone on my desk, and I have one on my nightstand. (I got a 3 pack used for $20... Love ebay). And I never have to worry about being charged or repeatedly "plugging in" somewhere.

Those who say its no big deal, have never realized the immense convenience this brings to smart phone ownership. Its easy to just say "no big deal, I'll just plug it in somewhere"... After all we live in an age of electronics, and we've been trained to accept that "plugging in" is "normal". And instead they complain about battery life. Look at iPhone users, Android users, etc. It's battery, battery, battery. And even if I'm away from my touchstones for a day, I can swap a spare $7 battery and I'm good.. Even if I had paid retail for the batteries and touchstones, the value is incontrovertible.

We all want a phone that can run for a week on a 1 hr charge... I do too. But until then, webOS has been THE best (and only) platform, to honestly take these considerations into their design and infrastructure to elegantly address the reality of the smartphone's battery constraints, and give the users a brilliant, simple, and elegant way to stay connected under every circumstance.
And as Derrek has elocuted so succinctly, almost four years after its introduction, it is still the best executed implementation of the concept... ever. :-)
Long live webOS, long live interchangeable batteries, and long live touchstone charging.
Like so much of the Palm webOS legacy, I guess its the classic Beta vs. VHS... Only the good die young :-)

Glad to see its still alive and proving its worth, despite the "consortium". :-)

So I just finished this mod in my Nexus 4. Its so fantastic. Much cheaper to buy 6 touchstones than QI chargers. Also the magnetic alignment is awesome. It works really nicely!