What is wireless charging? Phones, standards and more explained

The Google Pixel Stand is the latest wireless charging device to arrive on the scene, granting smartphone users freedom from cables and offering the ability to replenish handsets simply by laying against a flat surface.

However, there are many types of wireless chargers, operating on different standards and offering various charging speeds. Here’s what you need to know about wireless chargers and whether your smartphone is compatible.

How does wireless charging work?

The physical connection between a cable connected to a both a power supply and your smartphone have traditionally recharged phones. However, while a wireless charger still needs to be connected to the mains (in most cases), there’s no need for a cable to be plugged into your phone.

Related: Best wireless charging pad 2018

Wireless charging pads feature a coil driven by an alternating current. When a compatible device is placed upon the pad, it generates a magnetic field that stimulates an electric current within a similar coil within the phone. This will replenish the battery.

Do all new phones offer wireless charging?

Unfortunately not. Wireless charging is still considered to be a highly premium feature, so it is most commonly offered on flagship smartphones. In Samsung’s case, a Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 9 will offer wireless charging, while its mid-range A6 does not. Until very recently, this has been an Android-centric feature and only in 2017 did Apple add wireless charging.

Consider this feature like ‘options’ when you’re buying a car, the higher-end your phone the more likely it is to support wireless charging.

There are some exceptions through; top phones from HTC and first two generations of Google Pixel phones did not offer wireless charging. OnePlus, despite its flagship killing reputation, has decided to sacrifice wireless charging in order to undercut the likes of Apple and Samsung on price.

Which current phones do support wireless charging?

Many of the top Android devices offer support for wireless charging. Here are the most popular:

Samsung Galaxy Note 9, Note 8, Note 5
Samsung Galaxy S9, S9+, S8, S8+, S7, S7 edge, S7 Active
LG G7, LG G6 (U.S. versions)
LG V30, V35, V40
Moto Z series (with wireless charging Mod)
Sony Xperia XZ2, XZ2 Premium
Nokia 8 Sirocco
Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL

Which iPhones offer wireless charging?

Wireless charging has been a long-requested feature for iPhone users and, it’s true, Apple was a little behind the curve on this one. The first iPhones to offer wireless charging were offered in 2017. The iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, as well as the 2018 iPhone XS, XS Max and iPhone XR handsets are all compatible with the Qi wireless charging standard.

This means any charger adhering to that standard will enable you to add some juice to your smartphone without having to insert the Lightning cable.

Apple doesn’t have its own wireless charging accessory available yet, but it recommends the following. Apple has developed its own solution called AirPower, which will be available to recharge an iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods earphones simultaneously, but it is yet to go on sale.

Related: What is AirPower?AirPower wireless charging

AirPower

Wireless charging standards

Awkwardly, there’s more than one wireless charging standard out there. The most popular wireless charging standard is Qi, which is backed by the Wireless Power Consortium.

All of the phones listed here support Qi (pronounced “chee”) That includes newest iPhones, the top handsets from Samsung (S9/Note 9, all the way back to S7/Note 5) as well as the LG G7 and V40.

All of the biggest tech companies are part of the WPC, but there’s still a lingering competitor in the space. The rival PMA tech has stuck around, but this particular format war looks to be coming to an end. Earlier this year, the prominent accessory-maker Powermat joined the Wireless Power Consortium, effectively spelling the end for PMA.

Which wireless charger should you buy?

The good news here is that pretty much any Qi-enabled wireless charger will enable you to replenish your phone in this manner. However, you should still be picky when it comes to selecting one. One thing in particular to consider is the speed as which the charger will supplement your battery life.

The latest iPhones for example support wireless charging at 7.5W, but some charging pads will only work at 5W. Devices like the Anker PowerWave Pad can charge Android phones at the max speed of 10W.

Check out our guide to the best wireless chargers to help you out.

Why do wireless charging phones have a glass back?

Although it is technically possible to wirelessly charge a device with a metal back, it isn’t the most efficient or safest way way to achieve this. Here’s how Corning, the manufacturer of Gorilla Glass, describes how glass is the better material for wireless charging:

“Metal hijacks charging power. With a glass back, the magnetic field transfers power from charging pad coil to smartphone coil with negligible loss.

“However, power loss occurs with metal backs. The metal itself consumes part of the power from the charging pad, turning it into heat. As a result, there are transmission losses, and charging time is increased. Moreover, there is a real risk that the heat could raise the temperature of the phone’s innards, not a good thing to happen, since electronics likes to run cool.”

Has wireless charging changed the way you replenish your phone? Drop us a line @TrustedReviews on Twitter.

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