Cell phone charging mats -- do they work?

Cell phone charging mats -- do they work? »Play Video
SEATTLE -- The Energizer battery company is pretty charged up about its new universal charger for multiple cell phones.  It uses a new Qi technology which is supposed to be the next big thing in wireless charging devices.

The new Energizer charger restores the juice in multiple devices by using inductive charging. Here's how the company website explains it:
 
"Inductive charging is what happens when any device touches a charger, and power jumps into it.   No cords, no clutter!"

Multiple-device charging mats are relatively new, and they're all pretty pricey.

The Energizer Inductive Charger retails at $90. It can charge 2 devices at one time, with a USB port for additional charging.

The Powermat wireless charger charges three devices simultaneously. It's been on the market for a while and retails for $100, but I found it on sale at Target for $80. 

Powermat's temporary price reduction just happens to coincide with the release of Duracell's new MyGrid charger, which charges as many as four devices at once is also priced at $80.

But all of the chargers are device specific. They don't work with all phones, and in most cases, you have to buy more than just the charger.  The Energizer Inductive charger only works with iPhone 3G, 3GS and Blackberry Curve 8900. You need an inductive charging sleeve for the iPhone.  The Blackberry Curve requires a charging door. Both are priced at $35. My Grid's special charging sleeve is $30 to $35. The special Powermat receiver is $40.

During our test, we used my iPhone 3G. We started with the battery almost drained. We had to remove my existing phone cover and slide the iPhone into the special Qi inductive sleeve, then place the phone over the Qi symbol on the charging pad.

After more than 45 minutes and my iPhone had less than 25% charge.  As I've been having problems with my iPhone, I suspected a problem with my battery, so I tested a different iPhone with much better results.

This time, the inductive charger juiced up the battery in just more than 2 hours -- about the same amount of time it takes to get a full charge with a plug in cord.

Other testers found it took a little longer to get the full charge so timing appears to depend on the shelf-life of the iPhone battery.

If you're considering the purchase of any universal charger, read the box first to make sure it will work with your phones.  And definitely check phone compatibility if you're considering a universal charger as a gift.  Remember, you're shelling out $110 to $125, essentially for charging convenience.

Energizer predicts the Qi technology use in its inductive charging products will eventually be the built-in standard for all wireless phones, Wii wands, PDAs and other smart devices -- so you won't need the extra accessories in the future, the Qi charging mat will work with any Qi enabled device.