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PreCentral: Nexus 4 gains Touchstone charging thanks to clever hacking

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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.

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