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Spansive’s first wireless charger powers multiple phones simultaneously and works through thick cases

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When Pi Charging (winner of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017) rebranded as Spansive last month, the company also dropped plans for its previously shown cone-shaped charger capable of charging phones placed within a few inches around it. That charger would’ve required special cases for each device — and as the world quickly adopted built-in wireless charging standards like Qi, that no longer seemed like the right move.

They did say, however, that they were working on a different, Qi-centric wireless charging device with a “few tricks” of its own, and that it’d arrive by summer. This is that charger.

Called the Spansive Source, it’s a base station capable of wirelessly charging four phones at once. Unlike their cone-shaped charger, you’ll need to set your phone pretty much right on top of the Source — but unlike most pad-based wireless chargers, you won’t need to fuss with getting it aligned just right. Built using some of the same concepts they’d figured out with the cone-shaped charger, Spansive tells me that Source can determine where your phone is placed on the pad and adjust its array of magnetic charging coils accordingly. It’s also able to charge right through many brands of phone cases.

Spansive CEO and co-founder John MacDonald brought a few of his chargers to our office — and, while it’s tough in a short demo to gauge how well something like this works, it seemed to do what they promised. He placed one phone after another onto the base station, and each one’s screen lit up, its respective battery percentage ticking upward. He placed a phone with a thick Otterbox on the charger; it started juicing right up. The last phone he added to the pile had an Otterbox and a PopSocket on it, and it seemed to work all the same.

Spansive says Source charges at a rate of up to 5W for each phone being charged wirelessly, while the USB ports push up to 12W. MacDonald tells me that the wireless charging rate isn’t impacted by the number of phones on the pad; in other words, the first phone won’t charge slower just because you’ve added another phone or two to the charger.

MacDonald was careful to note that the Source is built to charge phones, specifically. The angled design would make resting something like an Apple Watch on it a bit awkward, for example — so Source also has two USB ports on its side, meant to help charge your various other devices. Even within the phone category, Spansive isn’t promising full compatibility across all Qi phones right off the bat; MacDonald tells me they’ve focused on getting it to work with Samsung’s Galaxy phones (beginning with the S7) and iPhones (beginning with iPhone 8), with certification/compatibility with other phones likely coming down the road via over-the-air software update. It has Wi-Fi built-in for pulling down those updates, with a button on Source’s base for wiping your Wi-Fi credentials with a tap if you don’t want yet another IoT device on your network indefinitely.

Source goes up for sale today at $189, shipping immediately in two colors: white and charcoal.

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