If you buy an iPhone 8 Plus one of Apple’s X-series handsets such as the iPhone XS, you’ll find it supports Qi wireless charging out of the box. Older iPhones aren’t compatible with Qi accessories – but if your smartphone has a Lightning port, you can fairly easily upgrade it to offer the same feature.
What is wireless charging?
First things first: there’s usually a wire, connecting the charging pad or mat to the mains the exception would be if you were using a wireless power bank with its own battery. The wireless part of the equation refers to the connection between phone and charger. But while it may not be technically wireless in the strictest sense, being able to dump your phone on a pad before you hop into bed is much more convenient than fumbling around for cables in the dark.
Recent iPhones use the Qi wireless charging standard more on standards in the next section, as do the Samsung Galaxy S- and Note-series, and all other smartphones advertising wireless charging.
Qi uses inductive charging technology, which involves two coils of copper wire with a core of iron one in the device you’re charging in a case attached to that device) and one in a pad or mat on which you lay the device. When you put the two coils next to each other an electromagnetic field is created and that allows electricity to be passed across.
The two devices need to be touching or within very close proximity, but the coils can be sealed within their respective devices.
Wireless charging standards:
There are two major groups in the wireless charging arena, which means there are competing charging standards. We’ve already mentioned the Wireless Power Consortium’s Qi, which is the inductive charging technology used by the iPhone XS and many others. Resonant charging is included in Qi’s specification but it is not necessarily supported on all devices, whereas rival Air Fuel Alliance offers both resonant and inductive technologies.
How to get wireless charging on older iPhones:
Wireless charging can be enabled on iPhones that don’t have the feature as standard by adding a case or other device that integrates an inductive coil and can be inserted into the phone’s Lightning port. In order to make the magic happen you will also need to purchase a Qi charging pad or mat. If you purchase a larger charging mat you may be able to charge multiple devices at once, all from the same single power source.
A disadvantage of adding wireless charging in this way is that it prevents you being able to use the Lightning port for other things. If you have an iPhone 7 plus, this will be a problem if you want to listen to music via a pair of Lightning headphones.
Note that, typically speaking, wireless is slower than wired charging: many Qi chargers are capped at just 5W to 7.5W. The latter is the current maximum speed supported by the iPhone 8 and X since the iOS 11.2 update. Fast wireless chargers that double this output are available, but are useful only if the phone (or device you’re using to add wireless charging to the phone) also supports this higher speed.
Keep in mind that if you’ve added wireless charging using a case, you will probably need to remove that case before you can charge it normally, connect to a computer over Lightning or hook up Lightning headphones. Wireless charging can also make it difficult to use your phone while it charges, though you can get round this by selecting a charging pad that also functions as a stand.