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 several few weeks testing multiple wireless chargers over 150 charge-discharge cycles, using them to charge a Samsung Galaxy S10e, 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.
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…
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 all the fineprint hasn't been enough to put you off wireless charging completely, you might be interested in this list of wireless chargers that we've compiled after weeks of testing.
Here are a few wireless charging solutions for your smartphone.
The fastest wireless charger on the list on paper was also the fastest one in our tests while charging the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, 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. It's also worth noting that most present-day smartphones don't support 15W wireless charging, so if you don't care about future-proofing, you could save money by purchasing one of the more affordable picks.
This duo of wireless chargers from a relatively unknown company was the biggest surprise package in our list, though we aren't sure why there are two different models to begin with. The only difference between the two seems to be that the more expensive Arc 500 is "flame retardant ABS" certified. That might be required for regulatory reasons in some markets, but we believe most people will be happy with the more affordable Arc 200.
That's especially the case when you consider that both chargers have identical performance. While topping up the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, the Raegr duo were second only to Huawei's own charger in terms of charging speeds. Factor in that the Raegr Arc 200 costs half as much as Huawei's wireless charger, and the performance is even more commendable. Charging speeds while topping up the iPhone XR were also pretty fast.
We have no real complaints about these products. The packaging looks and feels premium, and it's hard to beat the price to performance ratio that these wireless chargers offer. The company even claims to offer 2+1 years of warranty, if you follow the instructions that come in the package.
The Stuffcool wireless charger is one of two "vertical" chargers in our list, and is a lot more accessible than the Pixel Stand both in terms of price and availability. This Qi certified wireless charger supports charging speeds of up to 10W and is available in black and white colours. It's listed to be compatible with cases up to 6mm thick, which means you won't need to remove the case while wirelessly charging your smartphone.
The Stuffcool wireless charger is the newest entrant in this list, and it's no surprise then that it's also one of the top performers in terms of charging speeds. In our tests topping up the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, it was tied in third place with a couple of other options in this list. We noticed similar results while charging the iPhone XR.
Unlike some of the more affordable options in this list, we quite liked the build quality of the Stuffcool wireless charger. The vertical form factor lends nicely to using your smartphone it's being charged, which means this is a great charger for your work desk, perhaps more than a bedside table.
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 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 one of the two chargers 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.
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.
The awkwardly named Ubon PB-8015 is a power bank that also double up as wireless chargers. This 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.
Samsung recently introduced a power bank in India that is a lot like the Ubon offering in terms of functionality. However, the Samsung wireless power bank looks like someone built a power bank and then slapped a wireless charging surface on to it as an afterthought. We also noticed scuff marks on the unit after just a couple of days of usage.
Thankfully, no corners seem to have been cut in terms of performance, and the Samsung wireless power bank tied in second place in terms of wireless charging speeds with the Huawei P20 Pro, behind Huawei's wireless charger. There was less joy when it using it with the iPhone XR, however, with only the wireless charging pad — featured next — slower than the Samsung EB-U1200.
Companies are always looking for ways to differentiate their products and the first time we saw this power bank, we thought STM had certainly delivered on that front. That was until Xech sent us a very similar looking power bank (see below) a couple of weeks later. While wireless power banks themselves are no longer new, what sets the offerings by STM and Xech apart is the presence of tiny suction cups that allow you to stick the phone to the power bank while it's being charged wirelessly.
This highlight feature of the STM Wireless Powerbank worked as advertised with the couple of different phones and cases that we tried out. As for its actual performance though, this product was a little underwhelming. As expected, the wireless charging speeds aren't as fast as the offerings by Samsung and Xech in this category, both of which are rated to deliver faster speeds. As a wired power bank, it wasn't best in class either, which makes it difficult to recommend at its price of Rs. 4,799.
The Xech Satellite Pro 10000 wireless power bank looks a lot similar to STM's offering but is available at a more accessible price point. With that said, in our tests the suction cups weren't as effective as the ones on STM's power bank when paired with some phones without a case. With other phones, especially when used with a case, we didn't face any problems. According to the company, the suction cups are designed to stick to "any glass back smartphone", so your mileage may vary.
Despite its affordable price tag, this power bank really shines in terms of performance. The wireless charging performance is up there with the fastest wireless chargers in this list, in addition to being the fastest wireless power bank (with Samsung wireless power bank a close second). Even as a wired power bank, the performance of this power bank is excellent, with support for 18W Power Delivery on the Type-C port, as well as Quick Charge 3.0 support on one of the full-sized USB ports.
Every once in a while you come across a product that seems to tick all the right boxes on paper. When we first heard about it, the Tiitan Wireless Intelligent Charger certainly seemed like one. It's an AC travel charger, a wireless charger, and a power bank, all rolled into one portable package. You get two full-sized USB ports (with QC 3.0 support) and a Type-C port for input/ output as well as Power Delivery support. It can be directly plugged in to the wall, with interchangeable plugs that are compatible with Apple's chargers. Sounds too good to be true, right?
Unfortunately, the Tiitan Wireless Intelligent Charger is rather underwhelming in terms of performance. As a wireless charger, it was among the slowest in this list, both when plugged into an outlet and when being used as a wireless power bank. Though it's rated to offer 18W Power Delivery output via the USB Type-C port, our testing showed otherwise.
We tried charging both iPhone XS Max and an iPhone 11 Pro Max, and the charger could only top them up to around 30 percent in 30 minutes, which is a lot less than chargers that actually live up to the 18W PD billing. Our experience trying to charge the 12.9-inch iPad Pro was the same.
The VingaJoy WC-1006 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.