October 16, 2017

Wireless charging explained: Engineers answer your top questions

By Team Ventev Topic: Chargers Tech Specs

Apple’s iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and iPhone X will all feature wireless charging. That’s big news, because it could influence how we all charge our phones.

While wireless charging has been around for a while, this break into the mainstream has more than a few mobile phone users wondering what exactly is Qi? How exactly does wireless charging work? How fast is it? And, how do I charge wirelessly?

Well, we gathered Ventev’s resident mobile tech experts to weigh in on the most common questions we’re hearing from retailers and consumers. Here’s your guide to everything wireless charging.

How does wireless charging work?

Wireless charging requires both the phone and the charger to have an induction coil. When coils detect each other, they generate an electromagnetic field that transfers energy from charger to phone.

wirless charging explained

Do all phones charge wirelessly?

No. Only certain phones support wireless charging, but you can probably find a case with a wireless charging receiver. These will plug into your phone’s charging port to allow wireless charging. Here are all the phones that support wireless charging without a case. As you can see, some can charge with either technology:

Phones with wireless charging
What is Qi technology?

Qi

Qi (pronounced CHEE) is the leading standard for wireless charging. It’s named for the Chinese word that means “flowing energy.” Qi is one of three major wireless charging standards (PMA and Fast Wireless Charging are the other two). Ventev wireless chargers are compatible with all wireless charging technologies on the market.

Can I touch my phone while it is wirelessly charging?

Yes. You can use your phone while it is wirelessly charging, but the induction coils need to be fairly close together. You either have to lay your phone on a charging mat, or with products like our wireless chargestand, you can prop your phone up for FaceTime or to watch movies.

Why am I just hearing about wireless charging now?

For the past few years, wireless charging featured two technologies: Qi, and PMA (AirFuel). Both were fighting it out  to see which would go the way of Betamax, and both of them only charged at about 5 watts. This meant that a full charge could take as long as three hours for some phones.

Qi, which had long been the market leader, released an update in 2016 that allowed for faster charging speeds of up to 15 watts. PMA (AirFuel) has followed suit, and Samsung has issued its own fast charging standard, Fast Wireless Charging. Some phones are compatible with all three systems. Both of Ventev’s wireless chargers charge at up to 15 watts, and are compatible with all three standards. Qi has a huge lead, and Apple’s endorsement is widely deemed as validation for any technology.

Which is faster: wired or wireless charging?

Wired charging is almost always faster than wireless charging with the technology we have today. Two exceptions: If you’re charging using your laptop’s USB port or the USB port in your car. In these instances you’re most likely not charging at your phone’s optimal rate, and it might be slower than wireless charging.

Can I use a phone case while wirelessly charging?

Maybe. As we talked about above, sometimes a case is what makes wireless charging possible if a phone doesn’t support it. But if the phone is capable of wireless charging, thicker cases may prevent it from receiving a wireless charge. Ventev’s wireless charging solutions should work with the most popular cases on the market today. Additionally, cases that have metal or magnets in them, like those sold with magnetic car mounts, or those built to be super-durable, may not support wireless charging. Check the case’s packaging for any warnings.

Will wireless charging damage my phone battery?

No, wireless charging will not damage a cell phone battery.

Does wireless charging transfer data?

No. There are other technologies that transfer data wirelessly, but the wireless charging specs do nothing with data transfer.

What’s next for wireless charging?

There’s a lot of research into non-contact wireless charging, in which rooms are outfitted with devices that can transmit energy over distance. That means you won’t have to put the phone on a charging pad. Other initiatives call for putting low-power wireless charging pads everywhere – integrated into furniture, like the armrests of a movie theater seat or on your kitchen counter, a bartop, or your desk at work. In this scenario, people will go through the day “topping off” rather than getting a full charge.

 

The ‘Qi’ symbol is a trademark of the Wireless Power Consortium. 

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