Explained: What you need to know about Qi wireless charging

4 min read

Wireless charging or specifically inductive charging. It’s been around for almost as long as the iPhone’s been in existence. Plenty of devices use inductive charging. Just think about your electric toothbrush and how it charges when you put it back in the cradle. My first experience with inductive charging was in 2012 when I got a hold of one of an HP TouchPad (oh how I miss my TouchPad!).

Everyone’s all excited about inductive charging now that Apple has announced that the iPhone 8/8+ and X will have inductive charging capabilities. The standard for wireless charging is Qi (pronounced “chee”). Qi is Chinese for energy and the flow of energy from one thing to another.

Inductive charging involves a base (the “sender”) and the receiving device (your phone). The sender has metal coils and the receiver has metal coils. The sender is not always sending a charge. It’s only when you place your phone on the charging base and the sender checks to see if there is a compatible device present before charging begins. Once a connection is made, an electromagnetic field is created and then the magic happens. The electromagnetic field is not very strong, so it won’t affect you or anything else in the area. Inductive charging will even work with a case on your phone. You’ll probably want to use a slim case. Using a bulky case may cause problems with receiving the charge.

There are both pros and cons to inductive charging. In the opinion of this writer, the biggest advantage is the ability to just plop your device down on a charger and no need to plug it in. Put a Qi charger on your desk at work and one on your nightstand at home. Then just place the phone on the charger and it’s charging while you’re working or resting. Then when you step away all you need to do is grab the phone off the charger. No need to plug/unplug.

All that repetitive plugging and unplugging of a device into the charger is what weakens the charging port. Sure, USB-C actually helps solve that issue, but still the less plugging/unplugging you do the better.

One important thing to keep in mind, though, is that metal blocks wireless charging. This is why iPhones did not use Qi prior to iPhone 8. The metal backs of the phones cause issues with the wireless charging. Phones that support Qi typically have glass backs or plastic backs. Another point of concern would be if you use a magnetic car dock. If you do, you’ll want to find an alternative since the metal disc under your case that makes those docks possible blocks Qi charging.

The biggest disadvantage is charging speed. Qi charging is not that fast. There are newer phones and newer chargers that will “fast charge” your phone 1.4 times faster than a standard charger, but if you’re wanting to charge a depleted phone battery during your lunch hour, you might want to plug it into a conventional charger. A Qi charger is more for topping off a battery or charging your phone when you have a lot of downtime, like while sleeping overnight.

There is a charger being developed that will truly be wireless and not need to be touching the device to the charger. The Pi charger (note to marketing: Please work on the name) will allow devices outfitted with a special case that is placed in close proximity to the charger to charge. The Pi charger is still in development and may cost around $150. I don’t know about you, but I’m not spending $150 so that I can charge my phone 12 inches away from the charging base.

You’ll also be able to charge your phone wirelessly each time you visit Starbucks!

List of phones that support Qi charging

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