/ Technology

Is wireless smartphone charging worth the hype?

I’m seeing wireless charging advertised everywhere lately. Well-known brands, such as Samsung, promise ‘no cables, no connectors’. But if something sounds too good to be true…

Sadly, the future isn’t here just yet – you can’t charge your phone over thin air. ‘Wireless’ charging simply offers the next best thing for owners of the latest high-end phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 or Google’s Nexus series (but not the iPhone yet).

The idea is you place your phone on a charging pad or charging spot eliminating the need for a traditional wire direct from the mains to your phone’s USB socket. Some chargers will let you charge several devices at once.

But the charging pad still has to be plugged into a wall.

Why I’m sceptical about wireless charging

It’s billed as being more efficient, practical and safer. Samsung has claimed on Twitter in one promoted tweet in particularcut the clutter, charge wirelessly’.

Judging from the replies, the idea has fallen flat with some. ‘Sounds like extra clutter to me’, one said. Another added: ‘is there no wire going into the charging pad?’ which prompted the response from Samsung: ‘Yes, there is a wire going into the charging pad.’

As you can guess, I’m in the sceptical camp too. Placing your phone on a pad means you can’t even use it while it charges. And the device you’re supplied with is larger than a normal charger, making it less portable.

So is this really an indication of how we’ll be charging our phones in the future, or another expensive gimmick? A wireless charging pad for your Samsung Galaxy S6 will set you back £40.

Is it worth getting a wireless charger?

I asked one of our resident technology experts, Robert Leedham, for his thoughts:

‘Wireless charging is good when it’s included with the phone, but I wouldn’t pay extra for it. The Apple Watch was the first device I’ve really used with it, and while it was relatively convenient, again I wouldn’t be forking out extra for it with a phone or tablet – it’s not a deal breaker of a feature.’

So if you can get hold of the tech for free, then why not? But if you’re seriously considering buying, you may wish to weigh up the pros and cons first before parting with your hard-earned cash.

I’d prefer to see manufacturers focus their attention on the real issues around battery life, rather than gimmicky ways to charge your device.

In March, 64% of you said you’d opt for a thicker phone if it meant you didn’t have to charge so often – ‘my phone never makes it through the day’ was the general consensus.

Have you been tempted to make the leap from traditional wired charging to ‘wireless’? Do you already own a device? If so I’d love to hear your thoughts, and your experiences with placing your phone on the pad.

Comments
Member

The big advantage of “cordless” charging is that you dont run the risk of damaging the cover over the charging socket or the socket itself.
This is especially important with the waterproof phones like the Samsung S5.
It is also quick and easy to give your phone a quick top up, just pick it up if you need to use it !
With the S6 having wireless charging built in , I would expect to see even more 3rd party charging pads around IKEA were rumoured to be going to offer them built into desks !

Member

I agree that wireless charging is just an expensive gimmick. The worst thing is, as you point out, that it prevents you from using your phone while it is charging.

The only new charging technology that interests me is StoreDot, whereby a mobile phone battery can be charged fully in one minute. When this technology becomes mainstream, it will change everything. Wireless charging won’t.

Member
WD says:
4 July 2015

How is it just a gimmick? Do you not see the potential uses the technology has?

Picture this. You’re at a coffee shop and the entire coffee table, or at least sections of the coffee table support inductive charging. So, you’re at this coffee shop and every time you set your phone down on the table, it’s charging. The table looks no different to any other table, because the ‘pad’ is integrated within it.

The future potential is very high; by allowing people to charge their devices on the go in a manner that disguises leads – after all the leads going into the ‘coffee table’ example are hidden within the table’s central leg and therefore pose no trip hazard nor unsightly appearance, as they’re completely hidden.

That’s just a single example. There are many others. Imagine you get in your car and put your phone down on a charging pad. No lead dangling across your car. It’s all clean. When you don’t have your phone on you, you don’t have a lead sitting around. You don’t NEED to carry a lead around.

Wireless charging is less harmful than existing radio-waves, so I am not concerned about any ‘health’ risks, though people ALWAYS come up with that as a concern.

Member

This type of charging system is a standard feature of most electric toothbrushes.

Arguably, it is should really be called “contact-less” charging or “induction” charging because there are still wires going to the pad but there are no cable and socket contacts to fail over time.

Member

Wireless charging is not very efficient and certainly not fast. Look how long it takes to charge a cordless toothbrush, the most commonly found example in most homes. I expect some will use it when they get fed up with their micro-USB power connector. I don’t know how anyone could have decided on a non-reversible connector as a standard for phones.

I would be very surprised if one minute charging of phones proves successful. At best it might shorten the battery life and at worst we might have explosions or fires. I hope I am proved wrong.

What I would really like to see is replaceable batteries on all phones. Just carry a spare fully charged battery and pop it in if you need more power. Please will someone tell Apple ….

Member

I dont find the wireless charging slow , seems little different from when I used a cord.
If you have issues with battery life then wireless gives you the ability of topping it up easily and using it whenever necessary.
I suspect though that different phones and charging pads perform rather differently. Those who find the system slow may well find a good usb lead and/or power supply will speed things up.

Member
WD says:
4 July 2015

Most toothbrushes on the market, barring high-end ones, use NiMH batteries, which aren’t nearly as advanced as lithium-ion.

Regardless, to imply that inductive charging must therefore be slow on the basis that toothbrushes charge slowly is inane. Wireless charging is being trialled for CARS, for crying out loud. Most toothbrushes use batteries and chargers which are NOT optimized for rapid charge cycles, as to prolong lifetime. This does not mean the technology is incapable of providing a decent charge speed.

Member

I see the Garmin Vivoactive Watch has a “magnetic cradle” for charging which is possibly marketing talk for induction charging. The advantages of having common mats on which you can charge several small items and from different manufacturers would seem a good idea.

Incidentally the Garmin only needs charging weekly rather than daily which brings up the subject of lifespan of tiny batteries and frequency of charging. Do mats lengthen or shorten the lifespan or are they neutral compared to cable charging.

Member