Wireless chargers are in vogue this year. They’ve been around for years, it’s true, as many flagship Androids have supported them, but this is the first year that Apple has put its cards on table. Now that the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X all support wireless chargers, a heck of a lot are wondering about them. So here’s what you need to know.
Buying a wireless charger is pretty straightforward. As it stands, Qi (pronounced “chee”) is the one wireless charging standard that’s won out — all major smartphones support it. So you’re going to buy a Qi wireless charger. You don’t need to worry about whether your iPhone will work with a Samsung charger, for instance, like you would with certain cables (Lightning, USB-C, micro-USB). It all works. The other thing is that most wireless chargers are relatively similar — you’re not going to find one that’s so much better than the rest, but there are a few things to look out for.
All the best wireless chargers support “fast” or “quick” charging, but understanding what that exactly means can be a little bit opaque. Samsung defines that as outputting 9 watts of power, whereas Apple’s definition of fast charging, which all 2017 iPhones support with the iOS 11.2 update, is outputting 7.5 watts. This power output is also contingent on the fact that the charger is fully utilized. For example, if you’re traveling with your 9-watt wireless charger, but forgot its wall outlet and instead plug it into your iPhone’s USB power adapter ($19), which only outputs at 5 watts, it isn’t going to be able to charge your smartphone to its full capabilities. (And yes, this difference in fast charging standards means the latest Androids can charge faster than the latest iPhones.)
Aside from fast charging, you should look at the design of the wireless charger. All the smartphones that support wireless charging have slippery glass backs, so vibrations can shake them off the pad; you don’t want to wake up to find a dead smartphone because it wasn’t properly placed on the pad. To prevent this, you ideally want a pad with a big and grippy surface area. Also, most people won’t move their chargers from their desk or nightstand, so you should like the way it looks.
Wireless charging isn’t going to be faster than using a wired cord — know that. At best, and depending on the charger and the smartphone, it’s going to be about as fast. But most of the time it’ll be slower. The reality is that it’s still not more convenient to use a wireless charger since your other everyday gadgets — headphones, laptop, Nintendo Switch, Bluetooth speakers, smartwatches— don’t support wireless charging. When that day comes, that’s when these will really catch fire. But there’s still a satisfaction in dropping your iPhone on a surface and seeing it light up. And these are the best pads that’ll do just that right now.
Best Budget Pick: Anker Powerport 10W
Max charge speed: 10 watts
Noteworthy features: This Anker wireless charging pad is the smallest and lightest charging pad on this list. It’s also powerful. When your phone is charging, a ring of indicator lights glow blue around the device, which looks cool. (These lights only glow for a few seconds, though.) It connects via micro-USB.
Watch out for: The wall adapter is not included, so you’ll have to use one you already own or buy one separately. To get the most out of the charger, you’ll want a 10-watt wall adapter.
Who is it for? Anybody with one of the latest Androids or iPhones and wants something really slender (and cheap) to put their phone on.
Best Fast Charger: RAVPower Fast Wireless Charger
Max charge speed: 10 watts
Noteworthy features: Like Belkin and Anker, RAVPower makes solid tech accessories for less. This compact charging pad comes with a powerful 24-watt wall adapter which costs roughly $10 on its own. It has a micro-USB port and a grippier-than-most silicone ring to prevent phones from slipping off.
Watch out for: It only comes in black. And even though it’s compact, it’s thicker than others so it’ll keep your phone higher off the desk.
Who is it for? Anybody. This charger is capable of charging any of the latest Androids or iPhones to their max potential.
USB-C Compatible: Samsung Fast Charge Convertible Wireless Charging Stand
Max charge speed: 9 watts
Noteworthy features: This charger connects via USB-C, so you can unplug it and still use the cord to charge your Nintendo Switch or MacBook Pro. The charger is convertible, able to act as a pad or a stand depending on how you want your phone to rest on it. It’s made with a “leather-like” material, so it feels and looks more premium than other chargers.
Watch out for: It’s bulkier and more expensive than others.
Who is it for? Anybody looking to bring a bit more style to their desk or nightstand — and is willing to spend a little more to do so. It’s also great if you already own other devices that charge via USB-C.
Best in White: Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charging Pad
Max charge speed: 7.5 watts
Noteworthy features: This is one of two third-party wireless charging pads that Apple recommends — it’s also sold on Apple’s website. It’s one of the only wireless charging pads that comes in white, too. It’ll also fast-charge the latest iPhones.
Watch out for: It probably won’t charge the latest Androids as fast as other chargers as it maxes out at 7.5 watts. The pad connects via an AC adapter, unlike others that connect via micro-USB or USB-C.
Who is it for?iPhone users that want a trustworthy fast charger that’s also in white.
The Statement: Grovemade Wireless Charging Pad
Max charge speed: 5 watts
Noteworthy features: Available in “dark” and “light” cork, it has a stainless steel mid-layer and cork base. It connects via an AC adapter that has a red, nylon-braid cord. And it has a large surface area.
Watch out for: It’s significantly heavier than other wireless chargers — you’re not going to move it. And it won’t be able to fast charge any smartphone — it maxes out at 5 watts.
Who is it for?This wireless charger is really all about style. If you want a fixture for you nightstand that matches your other accessories, and don’t care too much about fast charing, consider this.
Editor’s Pick: Mophie Wireless Charging Base
Max charge speed: 7.5 watts
Noteworthy features: This is the other third-party wireless charging pad that Apple recommends (right now), and it’s also sold on Apple’s website. It will charge all the latest iPhones to their max 7.5 watt potential. It’s small and it’s fairly slip-resistant because it’s covered with a TPU coating.
Watch out for: It connects via an AC adapter, so you can’t use it with the micro-USB or USB-C cables you already own.
Who is it for? iPhone users who want something that’ll dependably fast charge their new iPhone. It charges via an AC adapter, so you can’t unplug it and expect its cord to charge your other devices.
Nordmärke by IKEA, $20
Samsung Qi Certified Fast Charge Wireless Charging Pad, $38
Incipio Ghost Qi 15W Wireless Charging Base, $60
Spigen Essential F301W Wireless Charger Pad, $26
Seneo iPhone X Wireless Charger, $25
Tylt Vubladet Vu Blade Wireless Charger, $25
The iPhone X establishes new precedents that will change mobile technology forever. Whether you’re ready for it is another matter.