Rights & Money

What’s the Deal With Wireless Charging?

Is this new cell phone tech a fad or a game changer?


By Matt Smith


To judge from the hype, wireless charging is a much-anticipated feature in the current crop of cell phones, but is it really time to cut the cord? A survey by the London-based research firm HIS Markit found that despite the buzz, fewer than 30% of respondents had actually used the technology. Nonetheless, major brands such as Apple (iPhone) and Samsung (Galaxy) seem to be sending the message that wireless charging is here to stay.

Although it’s a recent development in the cell-phone world, wireless charging technology has in fact been available to consumers since the 1990s and is fairly common in gadgets such as electric toothbrushes. It works by a process called magnetic induction, in which the charger creates a magnetic field to transfer electricity to the phone’s internal battery.

Because of this, it’s necessary to leave the phone on the charger (and the charger plugged in to the wall) while replenishing the battery, which you may find less convenient than simply using a long cord. It’s also less efficient—studies show that wireless chargers are on average about 15% slower than their wired counterparts.

All of which may leave you wondering, “What’s the point?” Although it’s not quite as efficient as using a wall charger, one of the main perks of wireless charging is the convenience and lack of clutter. It allows users to cut down on the cobweb of cables that can grow from having too many gadgets.

Most cord-charged cell phones still come with proprietary chargers, forcing users to grow their collection of adapters with every new device. However, this may change as the popularity of wireless charging grows. Most of the major companies have settled on the Qi (pronounced chee) standard for their devices, meaning that you’ll be able to use the same charger for your phone, smart watch, tablet, and many other electronic devices. This universal standard may well make wireless charging the game changer it’s claimed to be after all.

Photo: iStock/djedzura.