Should You Buy a Wireless Charging Pad Right Now? Don‘t Be So Quick to Cut the Cord…

You walk into a gadget store, and rows of glossy wireless charging pads catch your eye. It seems the whole world, engrossed in smartphone screens, is swiftly cutting cables – going wireless for charging too. No messy wires to trip over! Just serenely place down devices and let invisible electromagnetic wizardry replenish batteries. What convenience!

Indeed, wireless charging has seeped into tech hype juggernauts like the iPhone 12 reveal. But before grabbing the latest trendy charging pad from that impulse buy rack, let‘s dive deeper behind the glossy facade. Reexamine what problem this actually solves, how far the tech still has to go, and what alternatives may better suit your needs.

Because while occasionally handy, for most users today, wireless charging creates more daily hassles than it eliminates.

In this detailed wireless charging buyer‘s guide, we‘ll highlight:

  • 7 substantive reasons why new wireless charging pads disappoint more than they deliver convenience today
  • Background on how wireless charging technically functions under the hood
  • When wireless charging best suits specific use cases despite pitfalls
  • 3 convenient wired/wireless charging hybrid alternatives balancing pros of both

Let‘s charge up that knowledge, shall we? 😉

How Does Wireless Charging Work? A Primer

Remember playing with magnets and copper coils in physics class science experiments? Wireless charging relies on the same principle – electromagnetic induction between two copper coils converting electricity into magnetic fields.

Charging pads have copper transmitter coils that drive alternating currents at certain resonant wireless power frequencies. This generates oscillating magnetic fields around the pad‘s surface.

Devices to be charged wirelessly contain receiver coils connected to their batteries. When close enough, the magnetic field from the transmitter coil in the pad "induces" an electrical current within the device‘s receiver coil through electromagnetic fluctuation. That electrical energy gets harvested from the magnetic waves to recharge batteries without direct physical cable contact!

The most common industry standard that consumer electronics use today for interoperable wireless charging is called Qi – released in 2008 and now adopted by Apple, Samsung, Google and virtually every major brand. iPhones 8 onwards all support Qi wireless charging out of the box!

So in plain English, wireless chargers convert electricity into portable magnetic fields that nearby device coils can transform back into battery current without wires. Nifty!

Now let‘s examine why this magical wireless power beam approach causes more problems than it solves for average users like you today…

7 Reasons You Should Hold Off on A Wireless Charging Pad

Wireless charging pads may seem like an easy way to clean up nightstand cable clutter and charge devices by simply placing them down. But substantial technology constraints and efficiency issues remain before going completely cordless makes sense for most people.

1. Wireless Charging Generates Much More Heat

Excess heat degrades delicate lithium-ion batteries over time. So charging phone batteries too hot too often wears them out quicker. And wireless charging runs notoriously hot!

But why? Inefficiencies in wireless power transfer produce waste heat. Copper induction coils have natural energy losses as electricity converts to magnetic waves and back. Small alignment or distance issues between devices and pads compound these losses.

Indeed, Consumer Reports testing found certain phones reached over 113°F (45°C) when wirelessly charging – but only 103°F (39°C) using wired fast charging. That‘s nearly a 10°F (5°C) difference!

While device safeguards prevent immediate overheating damage, regularly wireless charging does accelerate long-term battery capacity deterioration. So if you want to maximize battery lifespan, avoid making wireless charging your daily driver.

2. Wireless Charging Speed Still Lags Way Behind Wired

Tech companies loudly flaunt fancy spec sheets with eye-popping numbers like 240W wired charging speeds today. But wireless charging output has long stagnated around just 10-15 Watts. And that‘s only for very select flagship Samsung devices – most peak below 10W!

The fastest widely available wireless chargers cap at ~15W total power transfer rates. But many modern wired charging standards like USB PD 3.1 (100W), Quick Charge 5 (100W), and SuperVOOC 2.0 (120W) absolutely demolish that by nearly an order of magnitude today!

Charging StandardMax Power OutputCharging Speed
Latest USB PD 3.1240W~50% in 5 minutes
Latest Quick Charge 5200WTo 50% in 15 minutes
Latest SuperVOOC 2.0120W4000 mAh battery fully charged in 13 minutes
Latest Fast Wireless Charging 2.015W50% slower than the above

Yes, upcoming protocols like Qi2 promise theoretical 70-80W wireless charging. But real-world output stays way below those ambitious benchmarks for most devices. Maybe in another 3 years we‘ll finally get halfway decent wireless charging speeds!

So don‘t expect wireless charging for phones, earbuds, or laptops to ever catch up with ultra-fast-charging wired technology output levels this decade. We‘re still years off from the true convenience of charging wirelessly as fast as wired.

3. It Consumes Way More Energy Than Wired Charging

All that frustrating wireless charging slowness stems from another key issue – inefficiency in power transfer. Wireless charging wastes substantial energy versus direct contact cables, needing ~40-50% more power draw to charge up device batteries!

A detailed research study conducted by scientists at the prestigious University of Michigan compared multiple forms of wireless charging tech. Their discovery? Most modern implementations only achieve 40-75% efficiency due to electromagnetic conversion losses.

By contrast, the latest efficient wired USB-C PD or Quick Charge protocols boast over 80% efficiency. So you‘ll keep seeing much higher electricity bills over time by charging wirelessly versus superior wired options. That wasted energy indirectly contributes greater greenhouse gas emissions too!

4. It Won‘t Work Well Through Phone Cases

Rocking a trusty phone case to protect your $1000 shiny new smartphone investment? Bummer – even relatively slimmer cases can totally mess up wireless charging!

Wireless charging depends on precise copper coil positioning within millimeters. But many phone cases, especially thicker protective ones, interfere with smooth power transfer between chargers and device coils. Metallic plates, credit card holders, or built-in fridge magnets further disrupt induction signals.

You essentially have 3 inconvenient options:

  1. Hunt for an ultra-slim wireless charging compliant case
  2. Constantly pry off your case to wirelessly charge temporarily
  3. Just directly plug in a cable which works fine through cases

Forget seamless charging-on-the-go convenience with current wireless pads unless you‘re willing to risk a bare, unprotected phone!

5. Correct Placement is an Utter Guessing Game

Woman frustrated finding the wireless charging sweet spot on a charging pad

Image source: Mantinov/

Finessing that finicky wireless charging coil alignment gets ridiculously frustrating fast. Cheap no-name charging pads lack any tactile guidance for placing devices accurately. Cue endless nudging around trying to find the random sweet spot that starts charging your phone. Every. Single. Time.

And even premium wireless chargers with helpful magnets or visual crosshair guides aren‘t foolproof. Shift your phone a bit, and oops – charging stops because the coils lost their delicate alignment! Say goodbye to casually picking up handsets for urgent notifications while wirelessly charging.

This finicky "incorrect placement" limbo where devices won‘t charge makes wireless charging far more hassle than it seems. Rigidly mounting phones in one precise alignment somewhat helps. But definitely don‘t expect grabbing charging phones on a whim like we‘re used to doing today.

6. Heat Buildup Prevents Any Actual Usage During Charging

Can‘t seamlessly pick up wirelessly charging phones when notifications light up anyway due to alignment issues. But what about casually browsing apps or replying to messages while charging phones in place? Surely wireless charging enables that convenience?

Unfortunately…no. Wireless charging coils produce much more heat enveloping devices than wired connections. So actively using processor-intensive apps while charging exacerbates heating issues.

Your $1000 iPhone running warm near its limits atop a charging pad risks auto-disabling features in thermal safe mode. Laggy scrolling and abrupt shutdowns are not good for iPhone health! And who wants to burn their fingers literally using hot devices?

Passively charging idle devices wireless works decently. But definitely don‘t expect to wirelessly power smartphones and simultaneously run apps for hours during the workday like we‘re all accustomed to today with wired charging.

7. Poor Safety & Standards Compliance in Cheap Chargers

Finally, earlier we highlighted the convenience illusion of wireless charging for most routines today given technical constraints. But bargain wireless chargers actually introduce new risks absent in directly plugging devices into reputable wall chargers.

Amazon is flooded with cheap Qi-certified wireless charging pads from little-known manufacturers with dubious quality testing. Unlike chargers from leading brands, these may lack proper safeguards against overheating, EM radiation exposure, electrical shorts, and other critical safety mechanisms.

Don‘t risk a $5 wireless charger unexpectedly frying your $1500 folding phone even once. Pay 3X extra for the peace of mind of proven pads meeting all regulatory safety standards! Your device lifespan, home, and family depend on it.

In summary, wireless charging seems amazing in concept. But with today‘s limited speeds, efficiency issues, heat generation, positioning unreliability, and lack of usage flexibility – most users won‘t meaningfully gain real-world convenience versus directly plugging in phones with a cable. Standards will advance, hardware will improve, and manufacturers will optimize. But that magical latency-free wireless future remains years away for buyers today to fully rely on.

Of course, some specific applications like bedside docks can utilize wireless charging reasonably well today despite the above caveats. But we‘ll cover suitable alternatives shortly too. First, let‘s recap core wireless charger drawbacks covered:

Key Wireless Charging Pad Disadvantages for Phones Today

  • Lags vastly behind wired fast charging maximum speeds
  • Inefficient technology wastes substantial electricity
  • Heat degrades delicate phone batteries faster over time
  • Unreliable device positioning and case interference
  • Can‘t actively use phones when charging without alignment breaks
  • Poor safety guarantee on cheap wireless charger brands

Now then, if you still seek some semblance of wireless charging convenience minus the pitfalls above, balanced hybrid solutions exist too…

Alternatives to True Wireless Charging Pads in 2023

Given all the wireless power caveats explored for phones, you needn‘t fully abandon convenience ambitions yet. Thoughtfully designed hybrid solutions blending wired charging speed and safety with wireless charging flexibility offer the best of both worlds today.

Here are 3 convenient options with unique pros worth considering instead of pure wireless pads:

⚡ Multi-Device USB Charging Stations

7 port USB charging station with dividers

Image source: AITA Images/

Reputable accessory makers like Anker and Belkin design spacious USB charging stations for simultaneously powering phones, tablets, headphones and more. Just lay devices into clearly marked charging bays without fumbling for sweet spots. The built-in length-optimized USB cables connect directly into device ports, charging with safe wired efficiency.

Handily charge up to 7 gadgets rapidly without swapping cables around. Determined dividers separate devices preventing scratching. Some stations directly mount onto walls or nightstands keeping surfaces clutter-free. With designs starting under $40, this practical approach brings far greater everyday convenience than unreliable wireless pads.

🍎 MagSafe Charging Stands – Best for iPhone

iPhones 12 onwards contain fiddly wireless guts anyway. So Apple wisely introduced MagSafe – dedicated mini charging docks with strong integrated magnets perfectly snapping iPhones into optimal positions over inductive coils for 7.5W charging. Smoothly combines wireless portability with adequate charging rates without heat buildup.

The catch lies in the Apple premium. But for iPhone stalwarts, the $40 official Belkin magnetic wireless charging stand or cheaper $17 ESR HaloLock variants make tailor-made sense over janky universal pads.

🛠️ Flexible Wall Chargers With Adjustable Prongs

Don‘t underestimate the convenience of thoughtfully designed wired chargers too! Anker‘s unique PowerPort Atom PD 1 wall charger features a rotating USB-C port swiveling up to 90° left or right. So the adapter always takes up just one wall outlet while leaving another socket free, reducing household charging congestion. Plus, leverage latest 67W fast charging without wireless heat/speed sacrifices.

Rotating USB ports directly built into bulky power strip extensions work too. Simple innovations on existing gadgets provide easy charging flexibility without need for dramatic technology overhauls before their time.

Closing Wireless Charging Questions Answered

Let‘s wrap up this detailed wireless charging buyer‘s guide by addressing some final common questions you may have:

Will ANY wireless charger pad work reliably with my iPhone?

If your iPhone supports universal Qi wireless charging, then yes, it should charge technically albeit inconsistently. But edge cases with non-Apple chargers may limit speed, cause interoperance issues, or present long-term battery risks. For iPhones, Apple-certified Magsafe Chargers best balance device optimization and safety.

Can I use apps actively while charging phone wirelessly?

Technically yes, but even mild phone usage like browsing or gaming keeps processor temperatures elevated. Combining extended wireless charging heat with heavy phone utilization speeds up battery wear and risks trigger thermal throttling kicking in. Best leave phones idle when charging wirelessly.

Which iPhones actually support wireless charging?

All iPhone smartphones from iPhone 8 released in 2017 onwards contain necessary receiving coils for universal Qi wireless charging. Earlier models unfortunately lack that internal hardware.

My wireless charger suddenly stopped charging – why?

Likely slight device movement resulting in coil misalignment – wireless charging depends tremendously on precise positioning. Try carefully reorienting gadgets across the charging pad surface to troubleshoot and find the new temporary sweet spot.

And there you have it – a thoroughly detailed cold glass of reality before buying into overhyped short-cuts. Wireless charging has potential once technology catches up with its promises over the next 3-5 years. But users today must set realistic expectations around device limitations in speed, efficiency, flexibility and usability before going truly cordless.

With diligent safety precautions and thoughtful usage habits, wireless charging can still serve specific applications like bedside alarm charging decently despite pitfalls. But don‘t expect true latency-free, wires-free convenience without compromises anytime soon in 2023!

Hopefully these insights help set proper standards before your next device charging purchase. Because sophisticated marketing and glossy next-gen pads will always tempt impulse buys without highlighting such fine print…

Stay wise charging out there! 😊

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