Jul 1st, 2019

Only 2012 kids will remember the hype surrounding wireless charging. Sure it was painfully slow, but the fact that you could lay down your phone somewhere and have it charge without any wires was something straight out of science fiction. With the promise of the tech being integrated inside restaurant tables, car docks, and at your local Starbucks, the future was bright.

Fast forward to 2015’s launch Nexus 5X and 6P where we learned that Google was officially abandoning the technology in favor of USB Type C (this is literally what they said), forever crushing our dreams of a wireless charging future. With the release of this year’s Google Pixel and Pixel XL, I, personally, was holding onto the blind hope that the partially glass back on the phones would mean the return of wireless charging (which doesn’t transmit very well through metals), but nope. Nothing. This was a major downside we mentioned in our review as we were once again forced to charge our phones like animals (using a standard USB cable).

Add your own wireless charging

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But just because Google doesn’t want you to have wireless charging on the Pixel, doesn’t mean it can’t be added after the fact. Head on over to Amazon, and you’ll find a handful of wireless charging receivers for most any phone. We decided to give one a shot, picking up the ultra thin UGpine wireless receiver for $9 dollars. It wasn’t the most well-reviewed wireless receiver — that’s reserved for the Nillkin wireless receiver, priced at $13 — just the cheapest I could find to experiment with.

After receiving the accessory in the mail, I plugged the receiver into the Pixel’s charging port, slipped on a case (a flexible TPU case works best), and placed the phone atop one of the many wireless chargers I had accumulated through the years. Sure enough, the phone started charging. Like clockwork.

Keep in mind that because of how big the pad is, it may cover rear mounted fingerprint sensors on smaller sized devices. Because of this, you’ll probably want to stick to larger sized handsets, or small ones as long as they don’t have fingerprint sensors on the back. Cool?

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Does it really work?

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The wireless charging receiver has a nice, thin, low profile design so it doesn’t protrude very much outside of the charging port, but is easy enough that you can pull it out and charge via a standard USB cable when you’re in a pinch. And therein lies the problem. Wireless charging is slow. Painfully slow. But like a slow cooker, it should only be used when you have plenty of time and you’re in no hurry to leave anywhere. Just set it. Forget it. Return 4 hours later and your phone is ready to roll.

Exactly how convenient wireless charging will be for you depends on your own charging habits. For those that sit at a desk all day, it could come in handy to set your phone down in a wireless charging dock. Because wireless charging is much slower than a USB cable, it’s the perfect way to charge your phone overnight. Over time, the slower charging speeds could actually preserve battery health, a real concern with fast charging via USB.

How fast is it?

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When it comes to wireless charging, it’s not so much how fast it is, as much as how slow. That being said — how slow is wireless charging? We tested it on the Pixel XL and the 5W current delivered roughly a 10% increase in battery every 30 minutes, for a grand total of 5 hours to fully charge the phone’s 3,450mAh battery. Again, if you’re pressed for time, use the charging cable. Of course, if you’re getting into the office with 50% and want to top the thing off before you leave, then place it on a charging pad and forget it. Simple as that.

You’ll often time read descriptions by the manufacturers of various charging pads or docks recommending that you remove the case when charging, as anything thicker than 5mm can interfere with the charging speeds. For your regular TPU cases this wont be an issue, but if you’re trying to charge through an thick, rugged OtterBox, you should probably take it off first.

Don’t forget the wireless charging pads

For those that thinking about investing in wireless charging, the receiver is only half of the equation. You’ll need a good wireless charging pad to place your phone on top of (the more coils, the better) and lucky for you, we have a few good recommendations.

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First, there’s the Choetech Wireless Charging Pad with USB Type C. With this charging pad, you can insert your regular Pixel USB C charging cable, so no need to fuss with buying a spare. As an added bonus, it also features fast wireless charging — great for the Galaxy S7 line — so you can have peace of mind knowing you’re getting the maximum 10W output from the pad on compatible devices.

While fast wireless charging doesn’t apply to the devices using the receiver accessory, it’s nice to know the pad is future proof in case you ever upgrade to a Galaxy somewhere down the line (providing Samsung doesn’t drop support in the Galaxy S8 or Note 8).

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The problem with most wireless charging pads is they lay flat on a desk or table. This can make it difficult to interact with your phone unless you’re standing directly over them. Wireless charging docks are much better suited for checking on notifications, viewing the time, or seeing incoming phone calls.

For this we found the affordable Turbot wireless charging dock. Place your phone on the dock, and it’ll be at the optimal angle to check all your notifications. The 3-coil system means it doesn’t matter how you place your phone on the dock, you can even set it to landscape mode for video viewing at your desk.

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stars Further Reading