Probably one of the most convenient developments in mobile tech in recent years; wireless charging is a great feature on any phone. In fact, most people picking up a flagship phone today would expect to see wireless charging as a standard feature. So we all know it makes our lives easier, it’s a pretty impressive bit of mobile tech, but how exactly does it work?
This article will take you through how wireless charging in mobiles actually work, explain some of the tech to look out for, and take you through some of the advantages and disadvantages of wireless chargers so you can see why it’s actually an important bit of tech and not just a fun gimmick.
How Wireless Charging Works
Wireless charging in phones relies on the principle of electromagnetic induction. Put simply, power for your phones battery is created by a magnetic field which is produced by two coils passing an electrical current between them. In the case of wireless charging, an induction coil is present in both the phone, and the wireless charging pad, so an electrical current is able to be created between the two of them.
Wireless Charging Tech
Strictly speaking wireless charging isn’t completely wireless, because the charging pad that you place your phone on to will, of course, need a power supply to it. This requires a wire. That being said, you can find these charging pads in more and more public places too, such as certain fast food places, some libraries and information centres, and even in some shopping centres, so it’s convenient for you to use on the go and you don’t have to supply the wire.
If you’re looking to use a wireless charging pad at home though, you will need to plug this in, which in many ways negates the reason for having one, if a wired connection is still available. A discussion for another day perhaps!
The ‘tech’ part comes into it with the phone itself. Most phones nowadays are built with an induction coil to help with wireless charging. This induction coil comes into contact with the transmitter on the wireless charging pad and the phone charges (more on the actual process later). Most phones support Qi wireless charging as standard, and this certainly is the most well known and widely available method of charging wirelessly. Almost all of the big phone brands from iPhone to Samsung, Huawei to Sony, work with Qi wireless charging.
The reason Qi is so important, is because its available across different Watt (W) levels. A phone is then manufactured to suit charging on these different W levels. Generally, this ranges from 5W charging as a minimum, up to 30W. This is important because each phone should tell you which W level it is capable of charging at. If it is 5W, it will take significantly longer to charge than if your phone can charge wirelessly at 30W, so keep an eye on this if fast wireless charging is important to you. You don’t want to be stuck without charge, but then have to wait a long time just have the phone battery to go up a couple of %.
As a side note though, phone brands are always developing new tech to make faster wireless chargers a priority, and this, in many cases, involves working on the induction coil in the phone to make it capable of charging faster even at the lower W levels. It’s worth taking a look at the spec of each phone before you buy if wireless charging is important to you, and check customer reviews too.
The best way to know how quickly your phone can charge wirelessly is by simply asking somebody who has it – that way you don’t necessarily need to know the more nuanced tech that the best phone companies might have implemented to make the wireless charging process quicker at lower W.
So, we’ve looked at the tech involved in wireless charging, but we haven’t actually looked at how exactly it works. Basically, wireless charging in phones relies on the principle of electromagnetic induction. Don’t worry though, you don’t have to be into Science to understand that. Put simply, power for your phones battery is created by a magnetic field which is produced by two coils passing an electrical current between them. In the case of wireless charging, an induction coil is present in both the phone itself, and the wireless charging pad, so an electrical current is able to be produced between the two of them.
The magnetic plate on the mobile device comes into contact with the transmitter on the wireless charging pad, and this sets off the process of the two coils creating an electrical current. This electrical current then creates the magnetic field for charging. Usually there is a specified range at which this can work too.
You don’t necessarily have to have your phone in physical contact with the wireless charging pad for it to charge. Qi wireless charging for example works at distances up to 40mm away, which might not sound very impressive now, but tech continues to be developed to help with wireless charging, it’s not unreasonable to assume that those distances will increase over time. As tech lovers, we’re certainly excited to see where this might lead in the future.
The electrical current that is produced by the two coils (the induction coil in the phone and the induction coil in the wireless charging pad) is then converted into a direct current (or DC) which is responsible for charging your phone’s battery. All of this just means your phone’s battery is capable of being charged without ever having to plug anything in (except the wireless charging pad, but again, we digress).
As with any piece of mobile tech, there’s good bits and bad bits. Thankfully, the bad bits associated with wireless charging mostly concern user friendliness rather than any downside to the tech itself (besides one major one, but we’ll look at that one at the end of this section).
Probably the main disadvantage of wireless charging with your phone is that it can’t be used whilst it’s charging. Think about it, if you have it plugged in like usual and you get a text, you can pick it up, reply, and then set it down again, all whilst the phone continues to charge. With wireless charging though, each time you pick it up it’ll stop charging.
The likelihood is you aren’t going to be keeping it within the 40mm range of most Qi wireless charging pads, so the magnetic field will be broken and the charging will stop. Of course, once you’ve finished on your phone you can just pop it back down again and it’ll continue charging, but it’s definitely an inconvenience for most users.
Now we have to address the major flaw in wireless charging at the moment. It’s slow. That’s just a fact. Whether you’re charging at 5W or 30W, you’re going to notice a significantly slower charging process than if you just plugged it in. Especially since nowadays most phones wired connections for charging come with fast charging capabilities that’ll have your phones battery full of juice in no time at all.
Obviously this area is something that’ll continue to improve over time, and as both the main wireless standard of Qi continues to develop, and phone companies develop new tech to help with wireless charging too, the process will get quicker. But until then, we’d guess that you’ll only head to a wireless charging pad when you have no wired option available to you.
Advantages Of Wireless Charging
There are many advantages to wireless charging though that means that it should be reached for as a charging option far more than it is at the moment. From a user friendly perspective, Qi charging pads are available in multiple different locations as you’re out running errands, so it’s nice to know you have the option available to you if you’re running low on charge.
But, here we’re all about tech. Especially tech that addresses common issues that almost every phone struggles with to this day. Yes, user friendliness is nice, and anything that makes our lives easier is great, but away from all that, there’s a BIG reason why you should use wireless charging wherever you can.
One of the biggest problems with mobile phones is the charging port. If a phone is being sent off for repair, we’d be willing to place a bet that it’s because of one of two reasons; accidental damage, or charging port no longer working. This is because so often people plug their phones in and take them off charge again multiple times a day. Now we’re not saying it’s the users fault they break, phone companies need to create a charging port that is capable of withstanding how customers actually use them.
But, until a time when this is actually addressed and we have more robust charging ports available, wireless charging is the next best thing. By charging wirelessly you aren’t putting as much strain on your charging port, so the likelihood of it deteriorating and breaking altogether over time is significantly reduced. So, wireless charging can actually be used as a solution to avoid having to send your phone off for repairs because of the charging port!
If there’s one thing to take away from this article, it’s that wireless charging has come a long way in recent years, but there’s still a ways to go yet as new tech continues to be developed and the wireless charging process continues to be improved.