iPhone and Android wireless charger pads: Which one is the best?

Choosing a Qi charger pad for your smartphone is not as easy as it sounds.

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Which Qi charging pad to use? (Image: Jason Perlow)

If you're a new iPhone 8 or iPhone X owner, you probably know one of the advertised features of each device is their ability to wirelessly charge.

There are many charging pads on the market, but picking one that is optimized for your phone is not easy. We've narrowed it down to three to simplify this process for you.

If you're going to take advantage of wireless charging on the new iPhone devices, the three we can recommend at this time are the Mophie wireless charging base ($59.95), the RAVPower iPhone 8/X Fast Wireless Charger ($49.95), and the Belkin BOOST↑UP Wireless Charging Pad ($59.95).

(Ed: An earlier version of this article included the Bezalel Futura X. We've had to withdraw our recommendation of this product because it does not appear to support 7.5W charging. However, we think it is a nice product for travel use and for those with Android devices.)

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Boost-Up for iPhone by Belkin.

Why choose one over the other? How are they different? Let's first talk about why you don't want just any Qi pad on the market.

The new 7.5W Apple Qi Charging Standard

When Apple released the new phones, the company deviated from the Wireless Power Consortium Qi 1.2.X standard, which has the ability to charge at the original 5W, a higher-level 9W, or the newest 15W used by Samsung on the Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, and Galaxy Note 8.

Apple chose 7.5W for its Qi implementation (which is currently supported in the current iOS 11.2 beta -- not with the shipping iOS with the new iPhones) rather than go with 9W or 15W. There is no apparent reason why it chose to do this, and it hasn't said anything about it, but my guess is it may have something to do with heat.

That means that while many inexpensive Qi chargers you can buy on the internet advertise "Fast Charge," if you use them with your new iPhone, the best they are going to do is the lowest common denominator, which is 5W.

We found this out the hard way with one of the products we originally had in this article, the Bezalel Futura X -- which despite the name, cannot charge iPhone 8 or iPhone X at native 7.5W speeds, it can only do it at 5W.

(We are unaware of any product currently on the market that supports both Samsung's 9W/15W Qi and Apple's 7.5W Qi. If you know about one, please use the author feedback form on my bio page or in the comments section and tell us.)

But 5W charging isn't horrible -- it will work fine for overnight use. It's as good as you are going to get with the supplied OEM Apple lightning cable and the included charger, but it's a far cry from 7.5W or even the native fast-charge speeds using the Apple OEM USB-C to Lightning cable and a USB-C fast charger.

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RAVPower QC 3.0 Wireless charger for iPhone, shown in Black.

Jason Perlow/ZDNet

While we did not put it on our iPhone shortlist, if you want a Qi charger that has excellent build quality and will work with all of your Qi devices, the Samsung version of the Belkin BOOST-UP (available in black) would be our choice.

Although the iPhone X and iPhone 8 can only charge with this pad at 5W, if you live in a household or work in an office environment with Android phones, especially Samsung ones, it is your best all-around Qi pad.

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The Mophie Wireless Charging Base for iPhone.

Which of the three pads is right for my iPhone 8 or iPhone X?

All three pads are quality, well-engineered designs, and you really cannot go wrong with any of them as an iPhone user. However, some considerations:

  • To support higher power output requirements, all of these come with their own special charging block. The Mophie and the Belkin both use keyed barrel connectors. The RAVPower uses a standard USB Micro-B connector, but in order for it to work, you need to use the Quick Charge 3.0 charger it comes with or a similarly compatible QC 3.0 USB-A charger. We tested with Anker's QC 3.0 charger and we can confirm it works. It will not, however, work on just any 2.4A USB charging port.
  • The RAVPower has the best illuminated charging indicator, a green LED (to indicate power and 5W charge) and red/orange LED which pulses when in use and to indicate 7.5W fast charge. The Belkin has a green LED which turns on and stays solid green when charging. The Mophie has a dim white light on the bottom edge (which is virtually impossible to see). For bedroom/night use I have to give it to the Mophie, which also has the lowest profile of the three.
  • The Belkin is the widest of the three and seems to require the least "futzing" with charging coil alignment. All of them lock on pretty fast, however, and we tested all three with OtterBox Defender and Pursuit cases for iPhone X, which are on the thicker end of the case spectrum.

Can I retrofit my old iPhone/Android?

You can buy any number of charging sleeves or receivers to retrofit an older iPhone or an Android that does not have built-in wireless charging, such as the new Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. I've seen them as cheap as $5 and all the way up to $15, such as the Cloele, which I've had some good success with using my wife's iPhone 7+ and an OtterBox Defender case and inserting it between the rubber backing and the plastic.

However, be aware the best you are going to be able to do is around 800mAh to 1,000mAh, and because your phone has not been designed for this, you may experience heat issues -- particularly because the distance between the coils and the charger base will not be the same as a phone that has this built-in, so alignment will not be ideal.

Every case has different thickness and heat exchange characteristics, and not all receiver coils behave the same, so your mileage is going to vary. You might want to look into cases with integrated receivers, such as the Bezalel.

How have your Qi charging adventures gone with your new iPhone or your Samsung device? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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