Wireless Charging: Everything You Need to Know

Wireless charging is still a mystical topic. Not many people know whether their phone can be charged wirelessly, or how the technology actually works. We’re here to help you break it down.

How it Works

Wireless charging is based on the inductive transfer of energy. Basically, energy passes between the charging pad and device via electromagnetic field. Typically, the energy passes between two coils – one in the base and one in the portable device – and is converted/stored by the receiving coil. This infographic from Power by Proxi does a nice job of illustrating the process.

Courtesy of Power by Proxi

Courtesy of Power by Proxi

Pros and Cons of Wireless Charging

Aside from the benefit of tossing the cables, wireless technology is safer because there are no exposed connections. It’s also more durable than traditional charging methods because ports aren’t damaged by repeated plugging and unplugging. That said, wireless charging is generally not as efficient as port-based methods – it takes longer to get a full charge. Also, for charging to occur, the device needs to be continuously in contact with the charging base, while a device that’s plugged in via cord can be moved and used while charging.

Wireless Charging and Cell Phones

Currently, the industry standard for built-in wireless charging is called the “Qi standard”. Any phone that is Qi-enabled can be used with a Qi-compatible charging dock out-of-the-box. A wide variety of manufacturers, from Nokia to Motorola to Nexus, all offer devices that support Qi-based charging. While Qi-based technology (inductive charging) is the focus of this article, it’s worth noting that A4WP is a formidable challenger to Qi. We won’t go into the specifics here, but visit Android Authority for an excellent in-depth piece on the differences between the two charging technologies. Unfortunately, A4WP-enabled phones aren’t Qi-compatible, and charging stations in stores like Starbucks and McDonald’s are A4WP compatible only. Standards wars = we can’t all win.

Some phones that do NOT come with Qi technology preinstalled can be easily modified with the installation of a Qi-compatible receiver card. To achieve this compatibility, simply install the wireless coil card. The tabs on the card attach to the battery inside the phone. As described above, a phone must have a receiver coil to be charged wirelessly. By installing the card, you’re adding the receiving coil to your phone.

Samsung S4 with wireless charging card installed - courtesy of Ausdroid.Net

Samsung S4 with wireless charging card installed – courtesy of Ausdroid.Net

Lastly, wireless charging cases are available for many models of mobile phones. Most of these devices don’t support the installation of internal wireless receivers (as described in the last paragraph), but they can be outfitted for wireless charging with a receiving case, which includes the receiving coil. iPhones up to the 5S model, the Sony Experia, and some HTC phones fall into this category.

For a handy chart of the type of charging available for your phone, checkout Wireless Efficiency’s page here.

Charging Bases – Choosing the Right One

We don’t want to reinvent the wheel here. Consumer Reports put together a pretty good review in late 2013 of the charging bases available at that time. It’s a great intro to the pros and cons of several bases. Once you read it, be sure to check the Googles to make sure that you purchase the latest model on the market.

Whether you’re ready to toss the cable or not, be sure to keep an eye on wireless charging. As the technology advances, it’s likely to be the method we use to charge most, if not all, of our portable devices!