Wireless Charging and the New Apple iPhones: Is it a Game Changer?

Apple iPhone X on Mophie wireless charging base

By Paul Riegler on 10 January 2018
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One of most-hyped features included with Apple’s three latest iPhones – the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X – is wireless charging. Before I came to experience wireless charging on a regular basis, I truly thought it was mostly smoke and mirrors. I was happy to find out I was mistaken as this may be one of the most underrated yet useful new features I’ve come across in a new phone in ages, unlike Apple’s new animojis.

First, a wireless charging primer. Wireless charging is in part a misnomer. The charger itself requires a cord and the phone must be placed on the charger. It doesn’t however have to be plugged into the phone.

Similar to how most electric toothbrushes charge today, wireless charging for smartphones relies on electromagnetic coupling and the charger only switches on when a device is present. Better charging pads have more coils which makes alignment less of an issue but, otherwise, there are few differences between charging pads from reputable manufacturers.

There are two major standards in the wireless-charging space: Qi (the Chinese word for energy, pronounced “chee”) and Powermat. Both standards use reasonably similar technology and are planning to add support for magnetic resonance technology, which will charge devices over distances of up to 1.5” (4 cm). This would allow charging pads to be hidden behind wood or other materials and would eliminate the need to perfectly align your device on the charging pad, which, depending on how many charging coils it has, is an important consideration.

Why is wireless charging a big deal, the reader might ask. Is it that difficult to plug one’s phone in versus simply placing it onto a charging pad? The answer, after several months of wireless charging bliss, is an unqualified “yes.”

While wireless charging isn’t new to Android phones, it is a new feature available from Apple on its three latest models. Those charging pads available at coffee houses, burger joints, automobiles, and furniture (I’m looking at you, Ikea) are now fair game for my iPhone 8 Plus. McDonald’s has Qi-compatible chargers built into tables in its restaurants, while Starbucks, at least in some locations, has Powermat charging pads available.

Even if we say “wireless charging,” it is a misnomer, and “true” wireless charging – a system where batteries are replenished without touching a charging pad or device – is closer to reality than one could imagine.

I’ve only had to use a wired charger twice in the past few months and both times I found it somewhat of an annoyance. I have several Qi-compatible wireless chargers in my home, one from Mophie and two from Samsung, as well as a Mophie portable battery pack that also supports wireless charging. I use the latter for travel instead of carrying a standard charger or charging pad since it effectively kills two birds with one device. (We’ll have a review of some of these devices in an upcoming article.)

Perhaps somewhat ironically, as if to tease us, Apple has yet to make its AirPower Mat available to consumers. That device will charge an iPhone, Apple Watch, and Air Pod wireless earphones all at the same time although it eats up an inordinate amount of desktop or nightstand real estate doing so.

As for me, once you go wireless, you never go back.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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