Palm Pre, The First That Commercialized A Wireless Charger For Phones


Wireless charging technology has been around for more than 100 years.

It was electricity pioneer Nikola Tesla who first demonstrated a magnetic resonant coupling that was able to transmit electricity through the air to create a magnetic field between two circuits, a transmitter and a receiver.

But for about that many years, the technology wasn't really being used for practical applications. Not many devices were capable of wireless charging, and the technology was not common on consumer products.

It was in 2008 that the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) was established. And a year later, the first commercially available smartphone with built-in wireless charging capabilities was introduced.

The phone was the Palm Pre, a multitasking smartphone that was designed and marketed by Palm with a multi-touch screen and a sliding keyboard.

Palm Pre was considered the first phone that popularizes wireless charging.

Palm Pre, with Touchstone.
Palm Pre, with Touchstone.

The wireless charging capability was made possible through an optional charging back cover.

That cover would allow the phone to charge through a charging pad called the 'Touchstone'.

Touchstone uses strong magnets to align the Pre to its place, and holding it to the pad vertically, so it can charge the Pre via field induction.

While Pre popularized wireless charging, it also received complaints.

Most notably, consumers said that magnets used in the Touchstone were too strong.

They were strong enough that if Pre owners attempted to pull the phone from the pad, they will also pull the Touchstone from whatever surface it is on. Palm had to give the Touchstone's base some adhesive so it can stick on surfaces.

The Touchstone had a price of $70.

It was a year later, in 2010, that the WPC established the Qi standard.

In 2012, the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and the Power Matter Alliance (PMA) were founded, and also at that year, the first commercially available smartphone with built-in wireless charging capabilities based on the Qi specification was introduced.

That phone was the Nokia 920.

Nokia was followed by Samsung with its Galaxy S3 (supported via a retrofittable official Samsung back cover accessory, the Google/LG Nexus 4 followed later that year.

Apple was years behind, and began introducing wireless charging capabilities to its iPhones starting the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X in 2017.

Pre debuted at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show, as the first mobile phone to use the Texas Instruments OMAP 3430 processor, as well as its initial US exclusive carrier agreement with Sprint, which operates a CDMA network.

The Pre was the first Palm device to use webOS, a Linux-based platform that replaced Palm's previous Palm OS. With multitasking ability and multi-touch gesture recognition, Apple accused the Pre of copying elements of the user interface, with Apple COO Tim Cook saying that "we will not stand for people ripping off our IP."

Palm responded that the company "have the tools necessary to defend [themselves]."