Wireless charging was first seen in a smartphone in 2012 but it's in the last couple of years that it's become really popular. While it may not have taken off in the way many expected it to — it's still largely restricted to flagship smartphones, and in some cases not even there — it's hard to argue against the convenience of just placing your smartphone on a surface and have it charge without the need of plugging in additional cables.
The important thing to note about wireless charging is that it's still very much in its nascent stage. The speeds are slow at best, and there's a lot of fine print that you need need to look at when comparing various chargers. What's more, the experience you get will vary quite a bit from one smartphone to the other, as was underlined during the course of this story.
We spent a few weeks testing 8 different wireless chargers over 80 charge-discharge cycles, using them to charge a Huawei Mate 20 Pro and an iPhone XR. Since most of these wireless chargers don't come with bundled power adapters, we connected them to different types of power sources to see the kind of impact that had on their performance.
Here's everything that we learnt during our extended testing process, but before we get to that, here's a little bit of background on the wireless charging standard itself and everything else you need to keep in mind before buying a wireless charger.
Practically all smartphones that support wireless charging do so via the Qi (pronounced ‘Chee') standard. It's been the choice of smartphone makers ever since the Lumia 820 and Lumia 920 shipped, and Apple threw its weight behind the standard with the 2017 iPhone lineup with wireless charging support.
In recent months, we've seen the standard move beyond smartphones, with the likes of Samsung Galaxy Buds and Apple AirPods 2nd gen supporting Qi charging, which means these earphones can be charged by just placing their case on any compatible charger.
What's more, we've seen the likes of Samsung Galaxy S10 range and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro support reverse wireless charging, which means you can use the smartphone to charge other mobiles (or the likes of AirPods) wirelessly.
Read the specifications carefully
The Qi charging standard is still evolving, so the performance that you get may vary greatly from one charger to the other. All chargers will specify a maximum power output — like 10W or 7.5W — and, in general, a higher number indicates the charger is capable of charging devices faster.
With that said, the charging speeds also depend on the capabilities of the phone that is being charged. Older smartphones supported slower wireless charging speeds (5W) while most phones shipping these days support faster speeds like 7.5W and 10W.
Then there are devices like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, which supports wireless charging speeds up to 15W. Now do remember that the only wireless charger in our list that's capable of hitting those speeds is Huawei's own, so be sure to read specifications of both the phone and charger before making a buying decision. Which brings us to…
Bring your own fast charger
The biggest lesson that we learnt from our tests is that on the face of it, all wireless chargers are equal. That's not to say a 10W charger isn't better — or at least faster — than a 5W charger, but that if you are comparing different chargers that seem the same on paper then it's safe to say they will perform similar in the real world.
Now that may seem like an obvious conclusion to some, but products don't always live up to their specifications, so it was a bit of a relief to confirm that, at least with the bunch that we tested. The big caveat here is most modern wireless chargers expect to be connected to fast chargers of some kind, which may diminish their appeal in the eyes of some, since that adds a non-trivial amount to the total cost of ownership.
Our testing revealed that while the performance did not vary greatly from one wireless charger to the other (except for the Huawei and Belkin, which were outliers in different directions), it did change a lot when we changed power supplies.
For example, we first connected the Type-C wireless chargers in our list to an Anker PowerPort+ 5 Ports USB-C charger using an Apple Type-C cable. In our tests, the BlackBerry charger topped up the Huawei 20 Pro by 17 percent in 30 minutes, while the Huawei wireless charger took the phone from empty to 15 percent in the same time.
Then we connected both wireless chargers to a Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 compatible charger using a Type-A to Type-C cable. While there wasn't much improvement in the performance of the BlackBerry wireless charger (18 percent), the Huawei charger could now top up the Huawei Mate 20 Pro by 30 percent, thanks to the aforementioned 15W wireless charging support.
The irony of buying a fast charger to power your wireless charger won't be lost on some, especially when you realise that the speeds that you get with wireless charging won't be anywhere near what you'd get with a fast charging solution.
To no one's surprise, charging a phone using a wireless charger will almost always be slower than using a regular charger with the same smartphone, though we are already starting to see some exceptions.
Like we mentioned above, the Huawei PC60 wireless charger paired with a Quick Charge 3.0 charger was able to charge the Huawei Mate 20 Pro from empty to 30 percent in 30 minutes, while using the same Quick Charge 3.0 charger and USB Type-A to Type-C cable to charge the smartphone directly only managed to top it to only 26 percent, the only time we saw wireless charging outperform wired charging in our tests.
This obviously was the case because both the Huawei PC60 wireless charge and the Mate 20 Pro support 15W wireless charging, which isn't the case with very many devices out there. Also, the Mate 20 Pro doesn't support Qualcomm's Quick Charge standard but its own proprietary fast charging solution — another example that shows you need to really look at the specifications of both chargers and phones to figure out the solution that will work best for you.
The charger bundled in the box with the Mate 20 Pro topped up our smartphone from zero to an incredible 75 percent in 30 minutes, blowing the PC60 well and truly out of water. Again, this is a charger that's designed to work specifically with the Mate 20 Pro (and perhaps a couple of other Huawei smartphones), but it goes to underline that even as wireless charging standards improve, so does fast charging technology in the wired world.
Of course experts maintain that most fast charging solutions are bad for your battery's long term health, but if you upgrade your smartphone regularly, you might be happy to trade the convenience of fast charging for worse battery life in the long term. If you are willing to look beyond speeds, you might be interested in this list of wireless chargers that we've tested.
Here are eight wireless charging solutions for your smartphone, listed in no particular order.
This wireless charger is by one of the most established names in the world of mobile accessories, and indeed it is the wireless charger that's been our trusted companion for the longest time. This is only one of two models in our list that comes with a bundled power adapter, which means you don't need to worry about investing in an additional fast charger.
Wireless output is capped at 7.5W, which means it's not as fast as some of the other models in this list. Do note that there's a newer, faster model available from Belkin already, but it's also more expensive than this one. What you do get from Belkin wireless chargers is the reliability of a trusted brand name, that's backed by up to 3 years of warranty (if you register your product with Belkin), and connected equipment warranty up to a value of Rs. 1,50,000.
Noida-based Optiemus Infracom is the official licensee of the BlackBerry brand for smartphones and mobile accessories, and the BlackBerry Wireless Charger is the first accessory the company has released leveraging the brand name.
The BlackBerry Wireless Charger is officially rated at 5W speeds, but in our real world tests, it was as fast as other chargers rated at 10W output, which was a bit of a pleasant surprise. We really liked the build quality, but didn't appreciate the fact that a Type-C cable isn't bundled with the charger.
Delhi-based Toreto has a host of mobile accessories and other electronic products listed on its website, but this is the first time we've come across one of its products. The Toreto Magik features a unique ‘jellyfish' design with a silicon cover that's designed to protect your mobile phone from accidental scratches.
The wireless charger has a built-in light that's capable of glowing in seven different colours. When the phone's charging, the light strobes gently, but you can turn it off completely if you so desire. The light starts flashing if something interferes with the charging process, which is a useful touch.
Delhi-based IMS Mercantiles is responsible for the sales and marketing of camera and mobile accessories under the Digitek brand, and the Platinum DPWC-10W is the most affordable wireless charger in our list. Despite its affordable price tag, its performance was similar to the more expensive offerings.
Our only complaint with this charger was its slippery body. While the Huawei Mate 20 Pro sat just fine on the charger, we couldn't complete even one charging session with the iPhone XR, as it kept slipping off the charger every few minutes.
The fastest wireless charger on the list on paper was also the fastest one in our tests, with the caveats that we mentioned above (pairing with a fast charger). If budget isn't a problem, the Huawei CP60 is clearly the one to get if you want to buy a wireless charger that's going to be reasonably future proof thanks to its 15W wireless charging support.
The only thing we didn't like about the Huawei CP60 is its size — it would've been easier to balance phones while charging, if the base of the charger was just a little big bigger.
The Pixel Stand released alongside the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL last year, and though it's designed to offer additional features — like the ability to use your phone as a photo frame, interface with smart home devices, and more — with the Pixel 3 duo, the Pixel Stand works as a standard charger with other Qi compatible phones as well.
This worked fine for us as long as we used the bundled power adapter, but while using third-party chargers (including some rated to provide the same output as the one that ships with the Pixel Stand) our experience was a little bit different. While the Pixel Stand charged the iPhone XR just fine, it just refused to charge our Huawei Mate 20 Pro and iPhone XS Max units. Now this is something most users won't need to worry about, but we found it to be strange nonetheless.
The Pixel Stand is the only charger in our list that lets the device stand tall while in use, which makes it easier to use the phone while charging. Our only real complaint about the Pixel Stand is its crazy price tag.
The only product in our list which is more than just a wireless charger, the awkwardly named Ubon PB-8015 is perhaps the most interesting product of the lot. It's a power bank that doubles up as a wireless charger, which can be a handy feature to have if you need to charge something but aren't carrying the necessary cables.
We were pleasantly surprised to note that the battery bank topped up the Huawei Mate 20 Pro just as fast as most other chargers in this list, though it was was pretty slow to charge the iPhone XR.
The VingaJoy is a wireless charging pad that's designed to sit on your bedside table, but we discovered it also doubles nicely as a mouse pad. Do remember that's slightly thicker than most mouse pads, so it might not be the most ergonomic decision in the long term.
One side of the pad has the apparatus necessary to charge your phone wirelessly, leaving enough room to move the mouse around. Again, though the wireless charging pad is rated at 5W, in our tests, it was just as fast as the 10W chargers while topping up the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
Do remember that the pad will need to be plugged in to enable wireless charging of the phone, and we wish the Micro-USB port was at the top (or bottom), instead of the side, where the cable that you plug in is more likely to interfere with other stuff on the table.
Editor's note: The story has been updated to differentiate the experience using the Pixel Stand with bundled and third-party power adapters.