The world of wireless charging is about to get a lot more … electric.
Wireless power support is baked into many of today’s most popular devices, including Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and Note5 phones, as well the new Motorola DROIDs — even the Apple Watch. Huge restaurant chains and cafes, such as McDonald’s and Starbucks, as well as hospitality companies, including Marriott, are building wireless power “spots” right into their various public-facing establishments and facilities.
[Related: Inside the evolving world of wireless charging technology]
In other words, if you don’t already wirelessly charge your phone or other mobile device, you soon will. Today, a number of technologies exist that enable wireless power transfer, but two standards lead the charge: the Wireless Power Consortium‘s Qi (say: chee) standard, and the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) standard. For this reason, we focused on Qi and PMA devices in this roundup.
Wireless power adaptors (Qi and PMA) for Lightning, micro USB
Own a phone that doesn’t support built-in wireless charging, such as an iPhone or older Galaxy device? No worries, these two adaptors make it easy to power up just about any new-ish smartphone, without the wires.
iQi Mobile (Qi) for iPhone/Lightning
Fonesalesman’s $35 iQi Mobile wireless charging adaptor is a simple, unobtrusive way to make your Lightning-equipped iPhone work with Qi-compatible wireless chargers. You simple plug it into your Lightning ports, stick it to the back of your iPhone, pop a thin case on there to cover it up, and you’re good to go.
The device works exactly as advertised. However, your phone gets rather warm if you charge for extended periods; it’s not exactly inconspicuous if you don’t use a case; and it adds just enough bulk to make many cases bulge a bit.
Powermat Ring (PMA) for Lightning, micro USB
The $10 Powermat Ring looks a lot like a giant Life Savers Mint that plugs into your Lightning or micro USB port and enables PMA wireless charging. Powermat and Starbucks are apparently good buddies, and Powermat charge spots are available for use at select Starbucks in the United States. You can use the Powermat iOS and Android apps to quickly find nearby businesses with Powermat spots.
The gizmo works as expected, but you’ll want to be careful when it’s plugged into your phone; if you accidently jerk it up or down, the rigid adaptor can damage your power port.
A wireless charge pad for every occasion
An Amazon.com search for “wireless charge pad” yields dozens of products, ranging in price from just a few dollars up to $50 or so. In other words, you have no shortage of options when choosing a wireless power charger, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get one.
Here are three of my favorite wireless charging pads.
Samsung Wireless Charge Pads (Qi)
Samsung’s $49.99, 5v Wireless Charge Pad is well-designed and easy to use. It has a circular rubber ridge that helps hold your device in place while it charges. A plastic LED covers its circumference and glows to let you know if your Qi-compatible phone is properly placed or needs to be repositioned. If you own a Galaxy S6 device or Note5, it also uses audio alerts to signify charging progress. And it comes in both black and white.
[Related: Is Samsung’s new Wireless Charging Pad worth the price?]
Samsung offers a $70 “fast charge pad” that wirelessly powers up your phone “1.4x faster” than the 5v version, as well. Oh, and all you comic book fans will also be thrilled to hear the 5v pad is available in an “Avengers Edition” that looks just like Captain America’s shield. Just don’t attempt to use it in public.
WoodPuck from Fonesalesman (Qi)
Fonesalesman’s unique WoodPuck is made of genuine “Mao Zhu” bamboo, which is apparently the Chinese name for the popular “Moso” bamboo that reportedly grows much more quickly than the average tree and is therefore more sustainable. All that really matters to me is that it looks rather sharp sitting on the glass-and-oak end table in my living room.
The 5v WoodPuck costs $59.99, and you can pick from a number of coffee-inspired shades, including espresso, latte and macchiato.
Choetech Fast Charger (Qi)
The smallest and most compact wireless charge pad we reviewed, Choetech’s Fast Charger is also the most featured-packed and the speediest. It provides 10v output, so it charges two times faster than standard, 5v wireless chargers. A light around the bottom half of the charger glows blue when it’s charging at 5v and green when a compatible device charges at 10v.
It comes in both white and black and costs $34.95 on Amazon.com, or $44.95 for a version that comes with a Qualcomm Quick Charge (QC) 2.0 adaptor, which is required for use with devices such as the Lumia 950.
2 quirky gadgets that look nothing like wireless chargers
Fonesalesman QiStone+ (Qi)
The $79.99 QiStone+ is not only a creatively designed wireless charge pad, it’s a portable power bank with a built-in 4,000mAh battery — and you can wirelessly power up that internal battery by placing it on another wireless charge pad. In other words, QiStone+ is a power bank, with both a wireless transmitter and a receiver.
QiStone+ is also the only gadget featured here that is truly wireless. You need to connect it to a power outlet via a cord to fill the internal battery. However, when the battery is charged, you can power up other Qi-compatible devices without using any wires, which is tres chic.
The device also has a micro USB port so you can charge two devices at once, though you will need to use a cord for the second one. Four status lights on top show you battery capacity. And it also looks like a perfectly shaped rock. Why? I have absolutely no idea, but I kind of like it.
FurniQi wireless charging table (Qi)
Most of today’s wireless chargers look more than a little like those silly old UFOs in 50s B movies. These modern wireless chargers are generally designed to stand out, to grab your attention, but wireless chargers of the future will be much more inconspicuous.
Case in point: Fonesalesman’s FurniQi wireless charging bamboo side table. Made of bamboo, FurniQi’s modern, minimalist design is perfect for your connected home. Its tan-colored power cord blends in well with the bamboo, and you have to look closely at the table’s surface to even notice its built-in charge spot.
FurniQi is available on Indiegogo at a starting price of $119.