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5 reasons wireless chargers aren't practical
Dec 04,2020, 1313
When Apple unveiled its iPhone 12 and iPhone X devices last month, it touted wireless charging as a key feature in both. Of course, wireless charging has been around for a long, long time (anyone remember the Palm Pre's Touchstone charger?) and is a standard feature for Samsung and LG's Android smartphones. If anything, Apple's late to the party here.

But let's face it - now that Apple's arrived, the party is finally getting started. The company's adoption of the Qi wireless charging standard will jump-start the technology, based on the sheer number of iPhones that ship each year. 

Indeed, shortly after the iPhone 12 and X were announced, there was a run on Qi charging pads and I found many of the more popular ones were suddenly in short supply online and in-store. I was able to snag a Belkin model - which currently has a "2 to 5 weeks" shipping time on Amazon - and have been using it on an end table next to a couch. When I'm sitting there watching TV, I drop my iPhone 12 Plus on it. 

After using it for a few weeks, I'm not in love. Here are some thoughts:

Wireless charging isn't all that wireless
Yes, when you drop a smartphone that can be charged wirelessly onto a charging pad, you don't have to plug in a cord. But the truth is a wire is still involved. You're still tethered to the pad if you want to charge your phone. And if you want to change locations with the pad, you're still unplugging something and re-plugging it elsewhere. It's really only semi-convenient.

Wireless charging is intermittent
Wireless charging only works when the device is sitting on the pad. Pick it up to use it, and it stops charging. Most people pick up their smartphones frequently - maybe too much. 

Wireless charging is slow
While the Qi charging standard is faster than it used to be, it still isn't as fast as corded charging. Indeed, new standards for corded charging make it faster than ever. 

The iPhone 12 and X support a faster version of Qi, but it's not yet available in the devices you buy today - Apple will issue a software update this year to turn that feature on. But for now, you'll need to leave your phone on the pad longer - and not keep picking it up - than you would if you just plugged in a cord.

Wireless charging can be frustrating
Wireless charging works through a process known as induction. A series of magnetic coils in both the pad and the smartphone must align for the process to begin. This requires you to place the phone on the pad so the coils line up. If you don't, charging won't happen or will be intermittent.

Better charging pads have more than one set of coils positioned differently, which makes the placement of your phone more forgiving. But those are typically more expensive.

In addition, wireless charging won't work with all smartphone cases. Most charging pads come with a recommendation to remove protective cases, though that's not necessary with thinner ones. But cases made of metal, or that are very thick, can prevent wireless charging.

If you get a lot of notifications or calls that cause your device to vibrate, your phone could shimmy its way out of alignment on the pad, halting charging. That's why you'll want a charger with rubber on its surface to keep your phone from slip-sliding away.

Wireless charging can be pricey
Your smartphone came with a charger and cable, but if you need another, they're generally inexpensive. Quality Qi chargers tend to run in the $40-$60 range.

You can buy less expensive models, but often these don't come with the AC adapter - you'll have to supply your own. Or they may cut corners with fewer sets of coils.
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