No one likes wires, and even with the advent of any-way-up USB C, it’s more of a pain than it should be to put your phone on charge. If humans can recharge in a bed, on a sofa or even a park bench (I was tired, okay?) then why can’t we put our smartphones down anywhere to charge?
Until we get the power equivalent of WiFi (and science is working on it), we have wireless charging – and it’s getting better all the time. No, it’s not on iPhones yet, but there are cases and add-ons to set almost any phone up for wireless charging.
As ever, there are competing standards, the most famous of which is the Wireless Power Consortium’s Qi (pronounced like the ‘chi’ in tai-chi). The next most significant is AirFuel, promoted by the AirFuel Alliance: a combination of the older, distinctly less catchy-named PMA and AW4P.
The only thing you really need to know is which standard is compatible with your phone (some support both), and what you’re looking for in a charger. Do you want something beautiful? Something upright? Something that’ll charge more than one device? We’ve covered all those options and more in our rundown of some of the best wireless chargers available here in 2016.
There’s something deliciously anachronistic about wooden tech products, and the WoodPuck is a great example – people are always surprised that it can charge a phone. Despite the name, it’s made of sustainable tortoiseshell bamboo rather than a more traditional wood, which makes it handily light. It’s also not one of the giant panda’s preferred varieties, so you’re not depriving a bear of its tea.
WoodPuck uses the Qi standard, and if your phone doesn’t have it natively, Fonesalesman also sell adapters for bazillions of handsets including the iPhone. The charger comes in a choice of two colors, Cappuccino and Espresso, to match your preferred aesthetic (or coffee order).
Far too many wireless charging mats assume you want your phone laid flat. This dock-style charger allows you to charge wirelessly while still looking at your notifications, watching a movie, or playing Pokémon Go (although you’re not going to hatch those eggs at your desk). You can orient your phone vertically or horizontally and it’ll still charge, and there’s a reassuring LED to let you know it’s working. Light sleepers might find the light a bit bright, though, and some reviewers found the inbuilt fan too noisy, so it might be better on your desk than your bedside table.
The point of difference for this stand is the fast charging capability: on newer Samsungs (Note 5, S6 Edge+ and similar), it charges ‘up to 1.4x faster’ than your standard wireless dealie. If you’ve hesitated on wireless because of the speed difference, this might be the answer. Bear in mind that you’ll need to add a fast charging cable and plug for that, though: it doesn’t come with its own. If speed doesn’t bother you, it also works with all Qi devices, not just those made by Samsung.
If we asked 100 people what they keep on their bedside table, the top two answers would probably be a phone charger and a lamp. This Ikea design combines the two in a stylish, practical piece of lighting tech using the Qi standard. If your phone doesn’t have it natively, they also sell cases for a limited range of Apple and Samsung phones.
It feels deeply futuristic plopping your phone on your bedside lamp and it charging. It’s the kind of “it just works” magic we’d expect from Apple (maybe next year eh, Tim?). It’s also really nicely designed: the lamp is mega-flexible, comes in neutral colors and has a handy non-slip cross to keep your phone on the right spot. What a bright idea.
OK, it’s more expensive than the lamp (and doesn’t have a lamp), but the Swedish supergiant’s other excellent offering in the wireless department can charge no less than three devices at once. That’s £20 a phone, which makes some of the one-trick ponies on the market look very expensive indeed.
Oh, and did we mention it’s got a USB port too? So that’s four devices, potentially covering the whole family (or one really dedicated gadget fan). As before, it uses the Qi standard and has a range of matching cases, as well as two design options: white and wood. This simple, stylish design is pretty much exactly what we’d expect from an Ikea wireless charger, but without a hex key in sight.
Like the Samsung, this pad offers fast charging as long as you’ve got a compatible wall charger (not included – you just get the standard-speed one). It’s a good-looking piece of kit, with non-slip feet and a slim profile despite the 10W power capability. There’s a ring of blue lights around the edge that ‘breathe’ when you first put the phone on charge, but thankfully they go off within 10 seconds (or they’d keep you up all night).
As the name suggests, the PowerPort Qi 10 uses the Qi standard, so it can charge all compatible devices whether they offer fast charging or not. It has built-in current, voltage and heat protection, so makes a good choice for anxious folks. Worth noting that it doesn’t have a USB port for a second device, though, and reviews of how well it works with cases are very mixed.
This unusual-looking charger is part of Samsung’s new design-led range, and wouldn’t look out of place in a high-end tech boutique. Between its circular and rectangular charging sections, it’s capable of charging any two Qi devices wirelessly with a wired USB port for adding a third.
Two subtle blue LEDs indicate the charger status of each pad, which shouldn’t be bright enough to disturb your sleep. However, the round portion of the tray is clearly designed for the wireless charging Bluetooth bottle speaker from the same product line, and looks a fair bit clumsier with a smartphone across it. If you happen to have the speaker, its night light feature plus this charging tray makes for a super-stylish nightstand combo.
Wireless car chargers are surprisingly tricky to find, especially from brands you’ve heard of. This one, by Tylt, is the car version of the well-regarded desk charger. It’s stylishly designed and comes in blue, red, grey and lime green (for some reason), which gives a decent range of options for matching your car’s upholstery.
The arms that hold the phone are well-padded and can accommodate up to a 6-inch phablet, with a nifty quick-release for getting your phone back at the end of the journey. Be warned, though: it’s not fast. The 1A output means you’re not going to see huge battery gains if you’ve got your screen on, but it’s better than nothing – especially if you run power-sapping sat nav or play tunes from your phone.
The Qistone+ is technically the only wireless charger on the list, in the sense that it can be used completely without cables. You can use it as a normal desktop wireless charger, plugged into a power source, or take it out with you and use it as a wireless power bank. It holds 4,000mAh, which is a little low for the size and weight compared with other power banks, but not only can this techy pebble charge your phone without cables – it can also charge itself that way.
If you’ve got any of the other Qi wireless chargers on this list, you can use them to charge the Qistone+ wirelessly just like you would a phone. This is particularly handy in combination with the multi-charging pads: charge your phone and the Qistone+ at the same time, then take the latter out with you as a power reserve and never need a cable again. Probably.