How to Know What Makes a Good Wireless Charger - The Definitive Guide – The Wireless Solution

How to Know What Makes a Good Wireless Charger - The Definitive Guide

Man looking confused surrounded by wireless chargers

Having trouble figuring out exactly what a good wireless charger is meant to look like?

 

Boy reading a book confused

 

Confused by all the standards, specifications and wattages that are forced down your throat without any explanation of what they actually mean

Despite the convenience that smartphone wireless charging provides, most people simply don’t even know where to begin.

Well look no further, this is your all singing all dancing to guide on how to know not only what a good wireless mobile phone charger looks like, but more importantly how to know what charger is best suited to your needs. 

We’ve created a set of criteria to look for in each product to help you figure this all out for yourself, and for those of you who don’t want to do that much thinking, don’t worry! We’ll include these criteria in each of our product descriptions with our own personal mark out of 10. You’re welcome :).

 

The Wireless Solution Quality Criteria

 

1. Charging Standard

 

Qi woman punching PMA man circa 2017

 

For those who don’t know, there are two different competing inductive charging standards on the market that are not compatible with each other (see our article for more info).

There surely can be nothing more frustrating than splashing out on a brand-new Qi wireless charger only to find it isn’t inter-operable with your PMA enabled phone, so make sure you double check your phone’s specs before purchasing a charger.

Fortunately, the inductive standards war is over after Powermat announced that all of their products from 2018 onwards will be built with the Qi standard baked in. This means that if your phone was released in 2018, its charging standard will almost certainly be Qi. 

 

2. Charger Wattage (Speed)

 

Electricity cables

 

For many the speed at which a charger will power up their phone is the most important factor when it comes choosing a product.

The metric used to determine this is the wattage it outputs, which should always be listed in the product description (if it isn’t listed that should be a big red flag).

There is a great deal of difference between the slowest chargers on the market that output at 5W and the industry highest of 15W, the latter is three times faster so this difference is definitely noticeable.

Unfortunately for iPhone users, Apple have currently capped the iPhone at a charging speed of 7.5W, so if you own an iPhone it won’t be worth purchasing a 15W charger. On the other hand, if you’re a Samsung owner it might be wise to take advantage of the fact that you can charge your phone twice as quickly as everyone with an iPhone.

If for whatever reason you do land yourself a charger that has an output wattage higher than your phone is capable of handling, don’t fret, Qi certified chargers will only output at a charging wattage your phone is capable of handling.  

 

3. Qi Certification

 

Man pointing to a certification

 

Qi certification means that a product has been tested by Wireless Power Consortium approved labs and aligns with WPC charging standards. In other words, Qi certification is an official stamp of approval.

The WPC gives three things to look for when determining whether a product has been Qi certified:

  • If the Qi logo is printed on the product.
  • If the product comes with a Qi certificate that has a URL which brings you to its counterpart page on the WPC database.
  • If the product is listed on the WPC database.

Here's a link to the WPC database where you can search manually for all the officially registered products. If it’s not in the database, it’s not Qi certified.

All our descriptions will inform you whether our products are Qi certified or not with a link to their certification if they are. While not all uncertified products are inherently bad here are a couple of risks you may be taking if you buy an uncertified product:

  • The product may overheat due to energy wastage, which will decrease the overall charging efficiency and could potentially damage your phone.
  • There is a chance that the charger may not even work with your device at all.

But, like anything, it's a spectrum. For some companies, particularly start-ups, the cost of testing their product isn't worth the benefit of having it certified. So, lack of certification isn't necessarily indicative of a badly made charger, it just provides assurance.

Bearing this in mind, if you are keen to save money or have an eye for a third-party product design that isn’t certified, here are two tips to minimise risk:

  • Research the reputation of the company. Chances are if they have good reviews and a good standing in the market they know what they’re doing. 
  • Check to see if the company is a registered member of the WPC or if they have any other products that are Qi certified. Some companies will only register one of their products to demonstrate their competence. 

 

4. Accompanying Cable and Plug

 

Cable plugged into a plug socket

 

A significant factor in the price of a wireless charger is the presence (or absence) of a wall plug that comes with it which can change the cost of the product by up to as much as £20.

Having one is essential for first time buyers but is unnecessary if you already have a charger that comes with a plug, in most cases at least…

Unfortunately, some chargers use proprietary jacks that are unique and will not work with other plugs. This means that if you’re buying another wireless charger you will need to make sure it comes with a plug as your old proprietary jack will likely not be compatible with a different charger.

And even if the charger doesn’t use a proprietary jack, you will still need check whether your plug and charger support either Micro-USB or USB-C as these standards are not interoperable. 

For those of you who currently have lightning cables for your iPhone, something to consider down the line is investing in an AirPower when (if) it eventually comes out, since it will enable you to use your lightning cable to power your charger.

 

5. Size and Aesthetics

 

A selection of wireless chargers on a wooden table

 

The size and aesthetics of your wireless charger are very much a matter of preference, but they can have some functional implications for your product. 

For example, chargers with a wider base (or cradle for stands) generally provide a more solid foundation to put your phone on. At the same time however, they can take up more room on surfaces.

Luckily, there are all kinds of sizes of chargers: circular pucks, square pads, rectangular stands, circular stands, charging bricks the list goes on and on so the right size charger really depends on what you’re looking for. 

In terms of aesthetics, there is a whole range of different looking chargers, some that are very simplistic with either a plain black or white colouration and some that use multiple colours or even a natural aesthetic that helps them to blend in with their environment.

It all comes down to what you personally like the look of. Having said that we will still try to provide our objective estimation of how good looking a charger is in our product descriptions.

 

6. Functionality

 

A swiss army knife

 

While 2-3 years ago you might only have found your standard charging pad for sale, these days wireless chargers come in a myriad of different designs with different functionalities.

Charging stands are now almost as popular as pads, mainly owing to the fact that they allow you to use your touchscreen phone whilst it’s being charged.

Designs that you will see get good brownie points with us here at The Wireless Solution are those that can act both as a charging pad and a stand at the same time. These convertible chargers tend to provide the best of both worlds.

Other designs include, charging lampscar mounts and even powerbanks that can charge your phone without being plugged in. Once again, this is partly down to your personal preference but we will try to provide an evaluation of how effective we think a design is in our product descriptions.

Some of the top brands take functionality to the next level and integrate cutting-edge features such as internal fans, precision resistors and improved shielding. You can be sure that we’ll point these out in our descriptions.

 

7. Grip

 

Basketball player gripping a basketball

 

One of the most underrated aspects of a wireless charger’s utility is the grip it uses to keep both the phone and the charger itself in place.

Since having to position your phone correctly in line with a charger’s coils can be (but shouldn't be with a good charger) one of the most frustrating aspects of using a wireless charger, having one that prevents your phone from sliding around can be extremely useful.

Moreover, it’s just as irritating if the charger itself slides around, especially for those of you with OCD who like to keep your surfaces as organised as possible.

 

8. Positioning

 

A smartphone on a wireless charging pad

 

Inductive charging is only possible if the magnetic fields of two coils are properly aligned, so as you can imagine the ease of aligning these coils can vary between charger designs.

Single coil designs are the most common in pads as this is cheaper, but they can prove frustrating when you are trying to align your phone. This has led companies to create multi-coil design chargers to increase the alignment area. This is potentially at the cost of some efficiency and a slight increase in heat but overall multi-coil designs are more useful.

These mutli-coil chargers can be arranged as follows:

  • Reinforced coils: two or more coils in the same position can slightly increase spatial freedom (but not speed).
  • Overlapping coils: two or more coils that are overlapping but perpendicular increases spatial freedom.
  • Orientation coils: two or more coils in a charging stand which allow for portrait and landscape orientation of a device.

Another unique solution is one pioneered by Ventev, who recently demonstrated their sliding charger at CES 2018, solving the issue of positioning without the need for additional coils. We salute this kind of innovation, good job Ventev!

 

9. Indicator

 

A red indicator light

 

Most respectable wireless chargers use some form of indicator to provide information about a charge.

Chargers can achieve this in different ways, but most tend to use an LED indicator which lights up when your phone is correctly in place. These can be found in different positions in the charger and can vary in colour, sometimes using a variety of colours to indicate different states of charge.

One downside to these LED indicators however, is that if the LED is too bright it can irritate those who charge their phone overnight. If this is the case for you then make sure to select a charger with a dull LED.

Alternatively, you could use a charger with a noise indicator, which works by making a sound when your phone is in position. The only disadvantage to these is that it's often harder to know if your charger has come out of position.

 

10. Charging Distance

 

Hand putting smartphone down on a mophie wireless charger

 

Depending on your wireless charger there will be some variability in how far or through what thickness your charger can charge through. This distance should be between 2-8mm.

Whilst all chargers should charge your bare phone, the charging distance will matter for those who use a case and would prefer not to constantly take it off. If this is so, try to look for a mobile induction charger that has a charging distance of at least 1mm greater than the thickness of your case to ensure successful charging.

 

11. Price

 

Lots of coins and notes of money on a table

 

Last but not least we have the price of the product. This is fairly self-explanatory, not only do you want to choose a charger that is within your price range, you also want to make sure that it's good value for money - this is the key.

We’ll always do our utmost to provide you with the most competitive pricing for products on our store, the value for money rating in our product descriptions is based upon how much it costs us to source the product for you.

 

Woman clutching a wallet full of money

 

Take Home Message

 

As modern technology continues to improve and add more functionality it can be difficult to get lost and lose sight of what’s important.

The platforms that market and sell products like wireless chargers often make this process even more difficult so we hope to have provided a bit of clarity with this guide.

Be sure that you will have made the right choice if you take all of these criteria into consideration, just promise us you'll read our product descriptions with all this juicy information in before you dive head first into buying the wrong charger.

Know that, armed with this information, you can choose the perfect product that is tailored to your needs so you can instantly start to feel the improved convenience that wireless charging provides.

Good luck and happy charging!

 

Boy with arms outstretched in joy

 

To see this rating criteria in action, check out our Products.

 


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