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What to look for in a wireless charger

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Do you know what’s missing in all our visions of a futuristic utopia? Wires. You never see anyone fumbling with a cable to plug in an Android phone or iPhone. Everything just magically works. We’re not there yet, but wireless charging technology is improving all the time. Leading the way toward this brave new world are wireless phone chargers. They’re not entirely wireless, because they still have to be plugged into a wall outlet, but they do free you from your nightly plug-in. You can pop your smartphone on a pad, and know that in the morning it will be good to go.

Before you splurge on a wireless charger, though, make sure that your phone supports it. Loads of phones do now, from the iPhone XS and Galaxy S10 to the Pixel 3. For smartphones that don’t, like the Google Pixel 2, you need to buy a special replacement back or a case that enables wireless charging. 

Wireless charging pads aren’t a new invention, but with more and more phone manufacturers jumping on the bandwagon, they’re an increasingly convenient way to top off your phone without hunting for a cable. Plus, they’re universal: whether you’ve got an iPhone, Pixel, Galaxy, or nearly any wirelessly charging accessory, they all work with the same pads.

Sure, your phone will work just fine with the wired charger it comes with, but a wireless charger makes charging your phone as simple as putting it down on a surface — perfect for a desk or nightstand. It’s a small change, but one that makes keeping your phone juiced up an unconscious part of your life.

The good news
The good news is that pretty much any Qi charger, new or old, cheap or expensive, will more or less do the job when it comes to charging your phone. But not all chargers are made equal, and things like form factor, materials, size, and of course, how fast it can actually charge your phone are all things to consider, especially for a product that’s looking to take up permanent residence on your desk or nightstand.

As convenience goes, wireless charging can’t be beat. You simply drop your phone onto the charger and walk away. Gone is the headache of managing cables that inevitably break or get lost.

The basics of wireless charging
There used to be two wireless charging standards—PowerMat and Qi—but the tech world has consolidated around the latter. That’s great news, because it eliminates a lot of the confusion you’d otherwise face at the store.

As long as the pad you’re looking to purchase supports the Qi wireless charging standard, and I can’t think of one that doesn’t, you’re golden. Your smartphone will obviously need to support Qi charging as well, but odds are good you already know whether it does or not. It’s typically one of a device’s bigger selling points, and your device’s manufacturer will make it pretty obvious if your smartphone is capable of wireless charging.

Charging speeds are the name of the game
Wireless charging might be a universal concept, but the details are critical. Devices can support different watts for wireless charging, as can the wireless charging pads they sit on.

You don’t want to mismatch in one direction—having a wireless charging pad that’s slower than what your device can handle—but it’s not the worst thing in the world to have a charging pad that outputs a higher wattage than what your devices support. When you upgrade to your next, great smartphone, perhaps it’ll be able to take advantage of the extra watts.

Your charging checklist
There’s a lot to consider when you’re looking to buy a wireless charger for your smartphone. If you remember nothing else, here’s what you need to know:

- Your smartphone and charger should support the same maximum wattage for wireless charging
- You might be able to get away with a slower wireless, however, depending on how well your specific device handles wireless charging. When in doubt, read reviews of how your device performed with difference wireless chargers (of varying wattages) and see if a few watts’ difference is worth the extra cash.
- A wireless charging pad might offer faster charging speeds for an Android phone, but slow charging speeds for an iPhone. Make sure you check that.
- Try to buy a wireless charging pad that comes with a power adapter. Otherwise, make sure your power adapter can handle the same wireless charging standards as the pad. (This can get confusing.)
- Your device might eventually get a software update that unlocks faster wireless charging. Make sure it’s always updated with the latest and greatest software.

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