How to choose a wireless charger for your iPhone

 In Technology
mophie-wireless-charging-base
Apple sells this Mophie charging pad for $60, but there are others priced significantly lower.


Apple

The iPhone 8 ($699.00 at Apple), iPhone 8 Plus ($799.00 at Apple) and iPhone X all have one long-awaited feature: wireless charging.

Wireless charging is convenient — just lay your phone on a pad or stand and presto, the battery sucks up juice as if by magic — but it’s also a problem-solver. Now you can charge your phone and use wired headphones at the same time.

Now that iPhone users are in new territory, this poses an important question. How do you choose a wireless charger?

Align your Qi

Apple elected to go with Qi, an existing magnetic-induction technology, rather than a proprietary charger. All together, now: whew!

It’s pronounced “chee,” and the key thing to know is that any Qi-certified charger should be able to charge an iPhone 8, 8 Plus or X. That’s good, because there are a lot of them out there.

But before you dive deeper into Qi, let’s look at AirPower, Apple’s first-party charger.

What is Apple AirPower?

airpower-charging
Apple’s AirPods can connect to an iPhone when dropped on the same AirPower charger.


GIF by Alexandra Able/CNET

Right now, Apple doesn’t offer an Apple-branded charger. The online store currently sells two third-party pads, the Belkin Boost Up ($60, £55 or AU$100) and Mophie Wireless Charging Base ($60, £55 or AU$100). These products are designed to charge just one device at a time. So what happens if you own, say, an iPhone 8 and an Apple Watch?

Enter AirPower, an Apple charging mat with room for a phone, Watch and Apple’s AirPods ($192.78 at Amazon Marketplace). It’s due to arrive in 2018, though a price has not yet been announced.

There are a couple of caveats, though: In order for AirPods to charge on the AirPower pad, you’ll need to invest in an AirPower-compatible charging case, rumored to arrive in December. And it’s unclear whether the AirPods case will work with third-party Qi chargers, or just the AirPower pad. Likewise, we don’t know if the AirPower pad will charge Apple Watches before Series 3. (To date, Apple Watches aren’t Qi-compatible. You need to use the Apple-supplied magnetic charger, or an authorized third-party Watch accessory.)

How do I choose a third-party charger?

Not going to wait for AirPower? Time to choose an existing Qi charger. But they’re not all created equal. 

The simple guideline: Buy one with a design you like and price you can afford. Most Qi chargers fall into one of two categories: pads and stands. The latter would be best for, say, a nightstand, where you just want to lay your phone down before drifting off to sleep. (Just make sure it doesn’t have overbright charging LEDs, which could prove a nuisance to light sleepers.)

This $20 Qi charging stand from Pleson has two coils instead of just one, the better to ensure good induction.


Pleson

If you spend a lot of time at a desk, it makes sense to choose a charging stand, one that props up your phone so you can see the screen.

What features should you look for in a Qi charger? Start with these:

Grip: A rubber ring embedded in the pad can help keep your phone from slipping around. Without it, one slight bump might knock the two coils out of alignment, disrupting charging.

Coils: All it takes is a single charging coil to power your phone, but you’ll see some chargers touting 2-3 coils. What’s the advantage? Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with speed: a multi-coil charger just gives you more room on the pad, meaning you don’t have to be quite so precise when you lay your phone down. And when it comes to a charging stand, it’s preferable to have extra coils because different phones are different heights, and you want to ensure it connects properly. So a small, one-coil circular pad is fine, but if you’re choosing a larger charging mat or a charging stand, opt for two or three coils. This popular Pleson stand, currently $20 from Amazon, offers three.

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