With the release of the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus, Apple now supports Qi-based wireless inductive charging on its latest phones, and that means charging pads have quickly become popular accessories for iPhone owners.
Apple’s favored partners for wireless charging pads are Belkin and mophie, and Apple is carrying a $60 charger from each company in its own online and retail stores. But there are lots of other options available on the market, and we’ve had a chance to try out a number of them, so we’re rounding them up in this guide which we’ll continue to update going forward.
5W vs. 7.5W Charging
While the new iPhones initially supported only 5-watt charging, the iOS 11.2 update increased that to 7.5 watts for faster charging.
In practice it’s not a huge difference in speed, and many users may not even notice it considering how easy wireless charging makes it to keep your phone topped off, but it’s worth keeping in mind that some wireless chargers only support 5 watts while others support 7.5 watts and even higher 10-watt or 15-watt capabilities seen on some other devices. Certainly for iPhones, if you need a quick charge, you’re going to want to use at least a 12-watt wired solution, if not an even faster USB-C option.
But as far as wireless charging options go, it’s also important to note that it’s not as simple as your iPhone uniformly charging at 7.5 watts on any charger that supports at least that much power. Wireless charging is a dynamic process that involves constant communication between the device and the charger to adjust charging power, and phone manufacturers are constantly refining their algorithms for managing wireless charging.
Inductive wireless charging can generate significant amounts of heat, especially at higher wattages, and phones and chargers work together to mitigate this by reducing the power draw and thus charging speed (sometimes significantly) once temperatures rise past certain thresholds. Some chargers even include built-in fans to try to keep temperatures lower to allow for longer periods of fast charging.
Phones will also generally charge faster the more the battery has run down, slowing down as the battery fills up to prevent overcharging. Similarly, many phones that support fast charging will draw maximum power for a brief period as charging begins in anticipation of a quick refill, but then slow down to a more sustainable longer-term power draw. Exactly how that charging is managed is largely up to the phone manufacturer.
Wireless charging tends to see different usage patterns than wired solutions, with wireless charging users more likely to charge for brief periods throughout the day to keep their batteries topped off rather than running all the way down and then fully recharging.
There are currently only two “Apple-approved” 7.5-watt charging pads on the market: Belkin’s Boost Up and mophie’s wireless charging base. Apple hasn’t disclosed whether there is something unique about those two pads in comparison to other 7.5-watt (and higher) chargers, but it’s probably fair to say that Apple worked closely with Belkin and mophie ahead of time to ensure optimal performance with the new iPhones and we’ve heard from several other manufacturers that they’re working on developing their own chargers that will support fully optimized 7.5-watt charging with iPhones now that Apple has opened up its requirements to all partners.
While we have seen somewhat faster charging with Belkin’s 7.5-watt charger compared to 5-watt wired and wireless options, that difference isn’t always readily apparent considering the variety of factors such as current battery capacity, device and ambient temperature, device alignment with the charging coils, and more. As a result, in almost all cases my recent testing has seen relatively similar charging rates using chargers from a variety of manufacturers at 5 watts, 7.5 watts, and higher.
Given that wired charging remains the best option for a quick recharge and that wireless charging speed is fairly unimportant in many other scenarios such as overnight or extended time at a desk, even 5-watt chargers will be just fine for many users. But if you want to make sure your charger is optimized to work with your iPhone, you might want to stick to the Belkin Boost Up or mophie wireless charging pad for the time being. Options will improve over time as other vendors roll out their own chargers likely to be certified under Apple’s MFi program.
The glass backs on the new iPhones are incredibly slippery, and many users have reported their phones sliding out of alignment with wireless chargers due to vibrations from notifications. I’ve even seen my iPhone X slowly slide out of position on chargers without any phone vibrations, simply due to my desk surface not being completely level (up to about a one degree tilt in certain spots).
I do use my iPhone X with Apple’s leather case, which provides significant extra grip compared to a naked phone. Most of these chargers also have some sort of non-slip ring or full surface to help mitigate the issue, but it’s something to be aware of if you don’t like to use a case on your phone.
The Qi wireless charging standard is overseen by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), a group Apple joined in February 2017. The industry group dedicated to development of the open standard runs a certification program that allows manufacturers to submit verification that their products comply with the latest Qi specifications. Certified products appear in the WPC database and are allowed to carry the Qi logo.
In general, the lack of a Qi logo and WPC certification doesn’t necessarily mean that a charger is dangerous or substandard in performance, and there are plenty of non-certified chargers on the market that work just fine. But the WPC does point out that untested chargers can pose risks related to overheating and foreign metal detection, so if certification is something you’re interested in for peace of mind, make sure to look up any potential purchases in the WPC database, which is updated daily. It can, however, take some time for certified chargers to be added to the database.
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