More and more phones are adding wireless charging capabilities, but if you’re using an older handset or one that still needs a cable to juice up — hello, Google Pixel 2 — you don’t have to be left out of the party. Here’s a straightforward guide to the kit you need to charge up any phone by just placing it down on a surface.
Fortunately for our purposes, understanding where you are with the tech is more straightforward than it has been in the past, since the lengthy battle between wireless charging standards is now drawing to a close. Just about everyone has decided to go all-in on Qi wireless charging, though you might still see hardware of a different standard around for a while — so be careful what you buy.
Wireless charging pads
The basics of adding wireless charging to a phone that doesn’t support it are the same as they are for a phone that does. You have your charging pad, plugged into the power, and then you can drop your phone on it to juice up.
With Qi wireless charging, all this happens with an inductive charging system, which uses an electromagnetic field to pass a charge between two devices via the copper coils embedded in them. If your phone doesn’t come with the necessary coil inside, then you need to add it somehow.
More on that in a moment, but in terms of the charging pads you can buy, your choice is wide open. If you’re upgrading a phone that isn’t able to charge wirelessly out of the box, there won’t be any official charging pads to confuse matters, so you can pick your favorites from the many third-party models out there.
Make sure you see the Qi wireless charging standard label, and check up on the output wattage as well—the newest pads go all the way up to 10w and 15w, though you’re going to need a phone or adapter that’s able to draw more power to get the full benefit (otherwise the charging rate will fall back to the slowest supported speed).
You’ve got flat pads and vertical stands to pick from, and most of these options fall into the very affordable bracket. A word of warning though: The wireless receiver dongle is going to protrude from your phone’s power and data port, so you probably need to buy a pad-style charger. What’s more, you won’t be able to charge your phone with a conventional cable unless you unplug the wireless adapter, so you might want to buy two or three pads to cover the home and office.
Wireless charging adapters
The secret to wireless charging devices not built for it is a thin adapter that includes the required coil, and stays permanently connected to your phone’s data and power socket. You can plug and unplug it whenever you like, but if you’re doing that you may as well just use a charging cable.
These adapters are ubiquitous and cheap, no matter what type of charging socket your phone uses: MicroUSB, USB-C, or Lightning. The coil part of the device sticks to the back of your phone—it shouldn’t protrude any more than a sheet of paper, but the smooth aesthetics of your phone will inevitably be affected to some degree.
You need to look for something that fits your phone’s charging port, offers Qi compatibility, and looks as sleek as possible. Head to your favourite online tech retailer of choice, but the usual rules about carefully checking user reviews apply—read through a range of opinions and if possible look for a review from someone who’s used the adapter with your make and model of phone.
Setup is as simple as connecting the adapter and then placing the phone down on a wireless charging pad. As far as your phone is concerned, it’s charging through the power socket as normal; it’s just the source of the electricity that’s been changed.
Alternatively, you can opt for a case that includes the necessary adapter in it. Cases can interfere with and slow down wireless charging, so it makes sense to go for one made specifically with wireless charging in mind. Again, find the right fit for your phone: This case will enable wireless charging on older iPhones, for example.
Is it worth it?
Wireless charging is one of those conveniences that seem a bit gimmicky and unnecessary, until you actually try them. Even with the inherent downsides of wireless charging, once you get used to just dropping your phone down on a pad every night without hunting for a cable or a plug, it’s difficult to go back.
And there are downsides — wireless charging remains significantly slower than wired charging, and using third-party adapters to convert a phone that doesn’t have the tech integrated tends to slow down the process even further.
As we’ve already mentioned, if you need to charge your phone conventionally at any point, then you need to unplug the wireless adapter to make room for the cable, which isn’t ideal. If you’re constantly switching between wired and wireless charging as you go from home, to the office, to the car, then you might consider the added convenience of wireless isn’t really worth the effort.
The stylish looks of your phone are likely to suffer too—especially if you’re phone is currently bare or in a super slim case. Many cases should still work fine, with wireless adapter dongles being so thin, but having to buy a new case is a possibility.
Even with all those caveats in mind, you should still join the wireless charging revolution. With the price of adapters and pads so reasonable, you can even give it a try to see if you like it, without losing too much if you don’t.