All You Need to Know About Wireless Charging

by Dan Forster - , Last Updated on April 14, 2015, Buying Guides

Wireless charging is far from a new technology- Nokia phones, for example, have featured wireless charging for a couple of years now. However, this year is the first time that we’re really seeing wireless charging taking off, with most of the top new releases featuring the possibility of a charger-free future. So what exactly is wireless charging, how does it work, and what can it do for you? We’re taking a look at all these things and more, so that you can decide if wireless charging is a feature that you want to look for in your new smart phone.

What is Wireless Charging?

Wireless charging is, well, wireless. But not completely, which is maybe why the issue is a little complicated for some people to grasp. In basic terms you will buy or be given a wireless charger. This is a small pad that needs to be plugged into a socket. You then place the pad somewhere convenient (such as on the edge of your desk), and every time you put your phone on the pad it begins to charge.

This isn’t, obviously, completely wireless, since you’ll need to have access to a plug socket and there’ll be a wire stretching from the socket to the charging pad. However, you won’t need to plug your phone into anything. If you think about the number of times that you pick your mobile up and put it down every day, you can see how this might be pretty convenient.

How Does it Work?

Inductive charging, as this is also known, has been around for a good long time. As you probably know, it’s not necessary for electricity to travel through a complete circuit (think about the way electricity can jump between two places, sort of like what happens if someone pees on the third train rail). In essence this is all that’s happening with a wireless charger. The charging pad is creating a current which then “jumps” to your mobile. Okay, it’s a bit more technical than that, but you get the general idea.

More Than One…

It’s worth noting before we go any further that there are a couple of different protocols for wireless charging. There are two main competitors on the wireless market, one known as Qi, the other as PMA. Whilst some phones (such as the new Samsung Galaxy S6 series) are capable of supporting both of these, others aren’t. If you’re looking at buying extra chargers or other accessories (which we’ll get to in a moment) you’ll need to make sure that your device and your charger both use the same protocol, otherwise wireless charging isn’t going to work.

Is Every Phone Capable of Wireless Charging?

Hm, yes and no. As we said, there are a bunch of new releases that are capable of wireless charging out of the box, the Samsung Galaxy S6, many of the recent Motorola devices, a handful of Nokia Lumias. Other phones have the potential to have wireless charging, but that really depends on your model. In some cases it’s possible to put a special case on your phone which will then allow it to charge wirelessly. How can you know? You might find this info in your phone manual, but your best bet is to search for “wireless charging cases” and the model name of your phone to see if there are options available to you.

Sell it To Me…

This is all very well and good, and wireless charging might seem like a neat trick, but why would you really want to have a phone that’s wireless charge capable? There are a couple of answers to that question, but both really come down to convenience.

Being able to charge your phone without thinking about it, simply by placing it on your desk or bedside table is pretty cool. Not needing to search around for the right cable is also awesome. Households that have more than one smart phone and a cluttered drawer full of different brands of charger can definitely see the pros of having all hand sets charge wirelessly…

And then, what about when you’re not home? Right now there are a few places that offer wireless charging points, generally higher end cafes and a few restaurants. Granted, this isn’t commonplace, but as we’re seeing more and more wireless charging models launched wireless charging hotspots in public places are going to become as normal as WiFi hotspots. You’ll never need to carry your charger again, simply walk into a cafe, grab a coffee, and let your battery suck up a little juice.

Any Down Sides?

There aren’t really that many down sides to wireless charging. It’s not quite as efficient as regular charging (you’ll get about a 60-70% charge wirelessly that you’d get in a full charge time using a cable). But since wireless charging is generally used more for those that pick up and put down there phone regularly this isn’t a huge issue.

Does it add to the expense of a hand set? Not really, not in the same way as great screen specs do, for example. It does tend to be more common on high end phones though, so you will probably be making an investment.

Do you need it? Debatable. If you’re not a big phone user, probably not. If you’re the kind of person that’s constantly looking for a socket to plug in, then yes, maybe. Business users will probably be the prime market for wireless charging right now, since an office can set up charging pads fairly inexpensively and easily and cut down on cable clutter.

Wireless charging is, however, here to stay, and is almost certainly set to become standard on smart phones. IKEA, for example, have just released a line of furniture that all contain wireless chargers, so you can put your mobile down on the coffee table and have it charge. We’re not saying that wireless charging is a must have just at the moment, particularly with so few public charging spots around, but things are heading that way. And that’s a good thing. Imagine never having to plug a phone into a cable ever again, never worrying about how full your battery is. Wireless charging has the potential to make this reality, rendering billions of phone chargers obsolete.