Wired Vs Wireless Charging: The Final Say – The Wireless Solution

Wired Vs Wireless Charging: The Final Say

A yellow road sign saying "Fin"

Look, we get it.

Inductive wireless charging can’t charge your phone from across the room. It can’t shoot lasers and it doesn’t bounce ultrasonic waves off the walls to make sure you never run out of juice.

But just because it’s not as “sexy” as the latest hyped up but highly impractical distance charging technology, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the potential to add huge convenience to every aspect of your life.

And the fact of the matter is, this inductive charging technology isn’t built upon some wall street pipe dream, its here right now for anyone that wants it, and the more people begin to buy into Qi charging the more potential it has to exponentially add this convenience.

For many, the resistance to wireless charging is simply apathy, they’re so used to using a wire that they think the benefits are not worth the effort of making the transition. There’s also a common misconception that wired charging is better in certain areas of performance.

In this article we will attempt to unpack some of these myths and misconceptions by pitting wired against wireless charging to show that wireless charging performs better in almost every aspect.

If you’re a cynic that thinks Qi inductive charging is a dead end and offers only a minor convenience, hopefully this evidence will inspire you with the same confidence we have in wireless charging. For everyone else: this should still prove an interesting read!

 

Our Criteria of Usefulness

 

We’ve picked out 8 key areas of performance to weigh up how well wireless charging compares when pitted against its old rival, wired charging:

  • Convenience
  • Aesthetics
  • Safety
  • Integration
  • Price
  • Speed
  • Efficiency
  • Alignment

 

Convenience

 

Person putting phone on wireless charging enabled wooden table

 

What better place to start this comparison than talking about wireless charging’s main selling point: convenience.

 

The awkwardness of cables

The standard criticism of wireless chargers is predictable and we hear it all the time: “it’s not that much more effort to plug in cable than it is to put your phone on a pad.”

But think about the practicality of having to plug in a cable every single day versus simply dropping your phone on a pad. There might not be a huge difference in one instance, but cumulatively over the course of a year a wireless charger will save you a lot of time and effort.  

The reality is charging cables have become small and fiddly, requiring a level of precision to align them with the equally small charging ports of modern smartphones, a problem which can be made worse by thick phone cases.

 

Cable management

While the astute among you may point out that a wireless charger itself needs a wire, there is something to be said about the way a wireless charging cable can be tucked behind the device. Contrast this with a wire that does nothing but get in the way and has the potential to cause tangling with other wires.

However, there is an even better way to reduce this wire clutter, using one of the most up and coming products right now - a multi-device wireless charger.

Think about it, if you can charge two devices on one pad you are effectively halving the number of wires you need to connect to a plug socket and this effect scales up and up the more devices you can accommodate. Recent examples of this are the Samsung Wireless Charger Duo and the Belkin Wireless Charging Dock. Both of which are from top name brands that are trying to capitalise on this desire for multi-device charging.

 

Interoperability

These devices can not only provide charge for your smartphone but any device that supports Qi charging, such as a smartwatch for example.

This is where the universal Qi wireless charging standard earns its salt over wired standards. Since Powermat joined the Wireless Power Consortium earlier this year Qi has become a universal standard for inductive charging and is slowly expanding to other devices.

If you compare this with wired charging that is torn between USB-C, lightning and various other proprietary jacks, the Qi standard clearly allows for much more inter-operability between Qi chargers and charging devices.

If you still have doubts about convenience consider this scenario thought up by Charlie Sorrell from Cult of Mac: “You’re at a friend’s home, and your battery is running low. Would you ask them if you can charge your phone? Sure. But if there’s a charging mat on the coffee table, most of us wouldn’t even bother to ask. We’d just drop the phone on there. That’s convenience.”

 

Aesthetics

 

Anker PowerWave Charging Pad on a deep red wooden table

 

Whilst commercial charging pads weren’t anything to write home about back in 2013 when they first hit the market, their development has seen brands make something of an art out of charging pad design.  For those who want more than just convenience and safety, wireless chargers are now also a tech fashion statement, and as a result we have seen many of the top brands put a lot of emphasis on aesthetics rather than pure practicality.

There are now Qi chargers in all shapes and colours that fit a wide variety of personal tastes and this level of individuality between chargers has allowed the best manufacturers to set themselves apart from the rest.

For instance, have a look at the latest Anker PowerWave Charging Pad pictured above, it uses a light grey and bright white to exude a futuristic aesthetic that wouldn’t be amiss on the set of a Star Wars film.

Let’s be honest, if you don’t have something like this somewhere on your workstation can you really call yourself 21st Century?

Compare this to a wire on the other hand, which does nothing more than clutter up your desk and get in the way, there really is no contest when it comes to looks.

 

Safety

 

Man wearing helmet and fluorescent jacket on construction site

 

Potential Hazards

Since wired chargers are made with well, wires, they will always pose a potential safety hazard if the wire becomes exposed. If the casing around the wire is broken they can cause mild shocks and could even become a fire hazard. It is now advised to never leave your phone on cable charge after it has reached full battery.

By contrast, wireless chargers provide much less of a safety risk since no wires are involved, they also have standby features in place that allow you to leave the charger on all the time, prototypes of which have demonstrated a power consumption of as little as  0.0001 Watts after a device is fully charged.

Even though inductive chargers do also transfer electric power, according to The Wireless Power Consortium they use non-ionizing electromagnetic waves that are not harmful to human tissue.

 

Safety Measures

There are even measures in place for foreign object detection which ensure no electromagnetic flux is emitted from the transmitter coil when any object other than a compatible Qi wireless charging coil is detected. This prevents heat build up occurring if keys or other metal objects are placed on a pad.

Finally, Qi wireless chargers are more durable. Whilst cables can fray, bend and become redundant over time, good quality wireless chargers should continue to work effectively over many years and most of the top brands provide warranties if this turns out not to be the case.

 

Integration

 

Integration written on chalk board with many different coloured arrows pointing towards it

 

Charging Ubiquity

Perhaps one of the greatest advantages of wireless charging going forward is its potential to integrate into every aspect of our lives.

As wireless charging is becoming ubiquitous, at home and in public, it will help relieve battery anxiety forever and could pave the way for smaller smartphones that require smaller sized batteries.  Studies have shown that “nomophobia” is a growing fear afflicting western citizens. According to a poll from LG 9/10 people claim they feel at least some anxiety when their phone battery is low.

But if there are wireless chargers built into every surface, be that at home or in public, charging your phone can be as simple putting your phone down.

 

Public Charging

We are seeing this transition occur rapidly in the public sphere, where companies such as Aircharge and Chargifi are leading the charge in the UK. Big names like these have been working hard to bring wireless charging to venues and public areas by deploying pucks that can be built into surfaces, many of which also use resonant charging to charge through thick surfaces like wooden tables.

Wired public charging on the other hand does exist but is far more difficult to implement. The wires can’t be built into surfaces in the same way and when overused are prone to splitting and becoming a safety hazard. Often, public venues have to use large charging cabinets that take up a lot of space and are forced to limit charging times for each user. By plugging your phone in you are also putting yourself at risk of a data breach.

 

Domestic Charging

But its not just in public that wireless charging can become ubiquitous. Top commercial brands have begun to recognise the desire for Qi charging coils built into all kinds of consumer products.

Far from being limited to your standard charging pad, wireless chargers have been built into bedside radios, car mounts and computer mousepads to name a few. The more prevalent these innovative products become the easier it will be to charge your phone wherever you go.

One of the most exciting products in the works is Qi wireless charging kitchen appliances which The Wireless Power Consortium showcased at CES 2018. This is a great example of how wireless charging can reduce the number of wires lying about the kitchen, eliminating potential safety hazards and adding a huge amount of convenience.

 

Price

 

Man going over money in his hand

 

Whilst wireless chargers have all these great features, many people just want the cheapest possible solution for charging their phone, and that’s understandable. However, you may be surprised to hear that despite initially costing more back in 2013, standard wireless chargers have become far more affordable, comparable to or even cheaper than wired chargers in some cases.

For instance, this Qi certified charging pad from CHOETECH on our store is only £12.99, the same price as this Apple charger and plug on Amazon costing £13.25.

Yes there are third party wired chargers that are cheaper, but there are also ultra-cheap wireless chargers that you can get from as little as £2.29! Although we wouldn’t recommend cheaping out on these potentially low-quality chargers, it just shows how affordable and accessible the wireless charging technology has become and that it is no longer a premium for those who can pay for it.

 

Speed

 

Motorboat speeding across a lake

 

Charging speed has become the favourite go-to for those dismissing wireless charging as a fad, but once again, the gap between wired and wireless charging in this respect has all but disappeared, to the point where it is no longer an issue.

Whilst the initial Qi specification only allowed for 5W, most chargers are now built with at least 10W fast charging and soon 15W will become the industry standard. Lets compare this to wired charging speeds:

 

What the Data Says

In the video below Vitalii Vasyliev found using the same Samsung Galaxy S7, that a Samsung wired fast charger powered it with a full charge in 1:36, whilst a Samsung wireless fast charger achieved the same feat in 2:36.

So, while there may be an hour’s difference here, this is not hugely problematic when you’re leaving your phone on charge for extended periods of time. This experiment also assumes fast wired charging, many people still use regular chargers.

 

 

Wireless Charging’s Potential

However, things get more interesting when you consider the fact that the latest Qi specification allows for a 15W output.

For instance, the newly released 15W Huawei wireless charger can comfortably surpass regular wired charging speeds almost match fast wired charging speeds, charging the Mate20 Pro in 31% in 30 minutes compared to 23% with regular wired charging. No doubt we will see more of these 15W chargers in the coming years as wireless charging technology continues to progress.

But also bear in mind the ease of usability and low standby power consumption of wireless chargers, these factors allow users to power graze throughout the day. If you consider the convenience of power grazing, this constant level of charging should keep your phone more topped up than the shorter bursts of concentrated power provided by wired charging.

 

Efficiency

 

A phone charging on a Qi wireless charging powerbank

 

Energy wastage

Efficiency is another issue bandied about a lot, without much insight. It is generally accepted that wireless charging efficiency in an inductive charger from end to end is roughly 60% efficient, with the excess energy being released as heat.

Whilst this may seem wasteful, if you compare it to the 75% efficiency of a wired charger the difference between the two seems negligible.

In his article on the pros and cons of wireless charging Charlie Sorrel talks about how if wireless charging becomes ubiquitous “that power wastage will be multiplied by tens of millions of users in a few years.”

But when you think about it practically this is another non-issue. The amount of power supplied to our smartphones through chargers pales in comparison to the various lights and electrics throughout our homes, many of which are very inefficient and give off a lot more heat.

Despite understandable concerns, wireless charging is not going to be the cause of the first global blackout, not even close.

 

Wireless charging more efficient?

There is also a strong case to be made that wireless charging still is or will soon become more efficient than wired charging.

An enlightening talk given by Kalyan Siddabattula makes a strong case that wired chargers lose a significant amount of power between the charger and the battery, dropping the end to end efficiency to as low as 50% efficiency.

However, this is not a problem for wireless charging systems as they allow the receiver coil to act as a battery itself. So, it may in fact be the case that wireless chargers are more efficient after all.

Wireless charging is also being researched constantly and will continue to increase in efficiency. For instance, the Magne Charge electric vehicle charging system was able to demonstrate inductive charging efficiency of up to 86%. If this technology could be translated into a commercial charging pad that really would be check mate for wired charging

 

Alignment

 

A row of seats aligned perfectly

 

Inductive charging requires the close spatial alignment of two charging coils for energy to be transferred, and in the past, this has led to an irritating need to fiddle with your phone to ensure its coil is properly lined up with the charger.

However, wireless chargers now employ a variety of tactics to work around this issue.

These include:

  • Multi-coil arrays which can selectively release energy
  • Guided positioning coils that use magnetic attraction
  • Free positioning coils that can move to your device

All of which allow for much greater freedom of positioning.

Another innovative design that all but solves the issue of coil alignment is seen in the Ventev Wireless Chargestand which uses a slider that can be adjusted bespoke to your phone.

In many ways wired chargers are now more frustrating to deal with than their wireless counterparts. Cables such as micro USB are small and can be a nuisance to fit into the port. Ports themselves can become easily contaminated with dust and dirt making charging connections weaker so that even more fiddling is required.

 

Conclusion

 

So, there you have it, if you had any doubts on why wireless charging is the future we hope to have dispelled them here. Wireless charging is beginning to develop to the point where it exceeds wired charging in almost every area so there really is no longer any excuse not to cut the cord.

What excites us most though at The Wireless Solution, is the possibilities that are being created now that more and more of the more the general population are subscribing to wireless charging.

As inductive wireless charging continues to be integrated into every aspect of our lives it will start to feel like we are charging wherever we go and without any effort.

 

Man in blue suit giving thumbs up

 


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