Monday, June 8, 2009

Palm Prē launch: The Touchstone's 'chic' secrets revealed

This is the first I ever witnessed it myself when a new smartphone is launched; an accessory as popular as the handset itself: the Touchstone™. For you who have not know it yet, (just in case you've been living in the jungle and got right back into the civilization right in time for the Prē™ launch day) the newly launched Palm Prē™ can be charged in two ways: an old fashion way with microUSB that comes along in the original box, or a new and cool way with the wireless charger Touchstone™ which is sold seperately at $70.

Michelle Koh, a member of the human interface team at Palm who played a large part in designing the user experience for Palm’s new webOS™ platform and the core Person Information Management (PIM) app; said this when asked by UXbyDesign about the Touchstone™ in an interview:

"This is just so cool because what was only possible in movies, is now possible in real-life for a mass consumer product. It’s always exciting when something considered 'geek' becomes 'chic'. Not only does this matter in the way a device is charged, but also for human behavior and cognition."

The Touchstone™ seems indeed have a certain sex appeal that makes it to become the center of attention, a mysterious masterpiece no one has ever knew before... But lucky for us, it is not mystery anymore on how the Touchstone™ works because iFixit has teardown the wireless charger, and reveal its guts inside for all of us to see just hours after they bought it. *gasp!*

The inductor charging base assembly

  • The new Palm Touchstone wireless charger works on the principle of resonant induction. When you move a magnetic field near a coil of wire, it induces a current in the wire.
  • Taking advantage of this principle, the Touchstone creates an electrical coupling between two coils of wire that are not physically connected. It does this with a primary coil of wire in the base unit which transmits energy to the secondary coil of wire in the phone via a magnetic field.
Ifixit ts 2 The Touchstone rear panel includes a secondary induction coil
  • The magnetic field generated by the base unit turns on and off rapidly, generating a magnetic pulse that is carefully tuned to the dimensions of the wire coil inside the phone. This oscillating magnetic field induces a current inside the phone, allowing the battery to be charged.
  • Similar technology is used to transmit power to some battery-operated toothbrushes, razors, etc.
  • This explanation is an oversimplification of a very specific field of electrical engineering.
  • You'll note that the location of the induction coil is in the center of the device, well away from the antennas that line the perimeter of the phone.

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