How many cords for charging your various mobile devices have you accumulated over the years — five, 10, 20? Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t need to keep track of all those specific cords for specific devices? Today, more and more devices come with wireless charging built in, and chargers are found in common household items like lamps, computer monitors, as well as public places like Starbucks and airport lounges.
Wireless charging is convenient and easy to use, especially if the charging technology is built into your device or there’s a good case option for your device. Just place your supported device on a compatible wireless charging base. That’s it!
Could you use wireless charging to charge your devices without cords?
What is wireless charging?
Wireless charging occurs through a magnetic field generated by the charger that surrounds both the charger and the device, enabling the transfer of power. You don’t need a physical connection between the device and its charger, but the two need to be very close — no more than 5 centimeters apart, including the thickness of the device case. In most cases, you can simply rest your phone on the charging pad.
The main benefit of wireless charging is no more power cords. No more accidentally pulling the power cord out along with your phone or fumbling to disconnect your phone from the charger to take a call. There’s less wear and tear on your device from frequent plugging and unplugging.
The process isn’t completely wireless, because you’ll still need to plug in the charging station. But you’ll only need one charging station for all your devices, and you may even be able to charge them all at the same time using just one charging base.
However, wireless charging is generally slower than wired charging, though new specifications and standards will soon push speeds to rival those of wired charging. Picking up your phone stops the charging process, which can be problematic if your battery is low. And some phone cases, especially thick ones or those made of metal, may not work with wireless chargers.
The biggest drawback to wireless charging right now is the existence of multiple wireless charging standards. Mobile devices use one or a combination of two major standards: Qi (pronounced “chee”) by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) and PMA by the AirFuel Alliance.
Qi and PMA are built into smartphones, smart watches, Bluetooth speakers and charging stations in clocks, lamps, tables, computer monitors and cars at locations like coffee shops and airport lounges. Both standards require that you place your phone on a marked charging spot.
A Fast Charge version of Qi is starting to roll out and is available in select devices, including the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge. Chargers can charge devices at approximately 1.5 times the speed of regular Qi chargers. The charger and device both have to be Fast Charge compatible.
Is your device wireless-charging ready?
Qi is the most widely used standard, with more 1,000 Qi-ready devices including smartphones, smart watches, Bluetooth speakers, and other mobile devices from manufacturers like Apple, Nokia, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, LG, Google, Panasonic, Philips and Sony. All Qi-compliant devices bear the Qi logo and will work with any Qi-compliant charger, regardless of who made the charger. You’ll find Qi chargers in Ikea furniture and Toyota, Lexus, Cadillac and Chevy vehicles, to name a few places.
If your device doesn’t have a Qi logo, check the PMA list of certified products to find out whether your device supports PMA wireless charging. For some non-compliant phones you can buy charging covers, which is almost as good as having the charging capability built in. You’ll find charging stations in Starbucks, Delta Airlines terminals and Madison Square Garden and built into some General Motors vehicles.
Where to buy aftermarket wireless charging systems
If your phone doesn’t have built-in support for wireless charging, you can purchase an adapter that plugs into your device’s charging port, a case with a wireless charging adapter built in or a back cover with wireless charging built in.
Mophie's line of Juice Pack Wireless cases have built-in battery packs.
For the Qi standard, consider cases with built-in Qi receivers like the Mophie Juice Pack Wireless for iPhone 6/6s ($99.99 on Amazon) and iPhone 6 Plus/6s Plus ($129.95 on Amazon), which also have built-in battery packs, and back covers for Android phones like the Samsung Wireless Charging Qi Cover for the Galaxy Note Edge (from $19.99 on Amazon). Mophie also makes a clever car dock ($59.95 on Amazon) that you can clip onto your car's air vent so you can easily access your phone. The phone magnetically attaches for a secure fit.
If you don’t want to use a phone case or a back cover replacement and you’re willing to give up easy access to your micro-USB port, try a universal wireless charging receiver module. It looks looks like a card with a flat, bendable cable that you plug into your device’s micro-USB port. Because the card is thin, you’ll be able to hide it under most phone cases. Bluboon for Android devices gets good customer reviews on Amazon and costs $13.99. For iPhone, try the Qi-infinity Ultra Slim Qi Wireless Receiver card ($17.99 on Amazon).
For the PMA standard, try a Powermat Ring adapter ($9.99 on powermat.com), available for iPhone 4/5/6 and for Android and Windows Phone (micro-USB).
Updated on 7/31/2016 with new product information and changes to standards