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How to choose the best wireless charger in 2021

What you need to know about buying a wireless charger for iPhone and Android – including our own Qi charging pad recommendations from hands-on tests.

Wireless chargers main

If you want unbeatable convenience when charging your smartphone, go wireless. No more fumbling around your desk or bedside table for the right cable – simply set your handset down and let the power flow. It couldn’t be easier.

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In 2021, it’s no longer a futuristic concept. Wireless charging has been around for a good few years now – with smartphones from big brands including Apple, Samsung, Google and Huawei adopting the Qi (pronounced “chee”) standard for powering devices.

Apple is often credited with pushing it mainstream by adding wireless charging to its iPhone 8 series in 2017. It has continued to support the capability in its new iPhone 13 as part of a lineup of magnetic accessories known as “MagSafe.”

At their most basic, wireless chargers power a phone’s battery without needing the connector cable and plug socket. The majority of chargers will be a pad that sits on a surface like a computer desk, but others will stand the phone upright.

As wireless charging becomes widely adopted, we are also starting to see 2-in-1 or 3-in-1 products that simultaneously power smartwatches and earbud cases.

In any case, much like choosing our best portable charger, we found that picking the right wireless model can become overwhelming due to the sheer amount of options available online. In this guide, we will aim to help you make that decision.

We have tested a selection of wireless chargers here at RadioTimes.com and have analysed several popular models based on build quality, performance and budget. And if you want to know more about how it all works, you are in the right place.

What is the Qi charging standard?

You will see “Qi” a lot when shopping for a wireless charger. Pronounced “chee,” it is a universal charging standard that has been adopted by many of the world’s biggest tech and mobile companies – so a broad range of devices is compatible with it.

Without getting too detailed, it is the transfer of power via electromagnetic induction, which means battery charging takes place by using electromagnetic fields instead of using a plug socket and cable that pops directly into a port on the device.

Qi is overseen by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), which has said that there are currently more than 3,700 “Qi-Certified” products on the market today.

At present, the Qi standard can provide between 5 and 15 watts of power to phones, but the WPC has also said it is working to boost the power of the standard to safely increase the profile for charging laptops, which typically need 30 to 60 watts.

Basically, if your modern smartphone has wireless charging, it’s highly likely to be Qi. The big plus is that Qi is universally compatible, so a Qi charger doesn’t have to be made by the same company as the phone you are pairing it with. For example, an Apple wireless charger can be used to power Samsung phones and vice versa.

What are the advantages of wireless charging? 

  • Convenience, as there’s fewer power cables
  • Most chargers are universally compatible
  • Hardware is now very budget-friendly
  • Chargers can be anywhere around the home

What are the disadvantages of wireless charging?

  • Slower than a connector and plug socket
  • Many devices still do not have wireless charging
  • Can’t always use the phone while powering up
  • Not very energy efficient compared to a USB

How to choose the best wireless charger

Decide your budget: Like most tech, it’s crucial to first narrow down your search by deciding how much money you can spend on a new charger. While some are pricier than others (especially models that power multiple devices at once), luckily, there is a lot of choice via retailers such as Amazon, Currys and Argos.

One of the affordable brands you will see is Anker, and it has a great selection of chargers available. You can expect to pay between £10 and £20 for a basic pad, while the combo models can stretch to more than £100. So there’s a lot of variety in terms of the cost.

Choose the shape: It may sound a little odd, but the shape of the wireless charger will immediately change how you use it. The designs will typically be either a pad or a stand – although some brands do like to put their own twist on the aesthetic. Apple, for example, uses snap-on “MagSafe” technology, while Belkin is known for making longer pads that charge multiple devices simultaneously.

After testing, we preferred the stands because they let you still use the phone while it was charging – and it was easier to see any notifications as they appeared. But it’s all personal choice.

Check the wattage: While the Qi standard can provide between five and 15 watts of power to smartphones – every wireless charger will be different. You should always check the output, which is measured in watts, as this will indicate charging speed. You also need to check the specs of your phone as many models will have a cap on how much power they can receive – whether it’s 5W, 7.5W, 10W or more.

For example, iPhones are capped at 7.5W from Qi chargers, although the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 can receive up to 15W with the official MagSafe charger. Our testing was conducted using a Google Pixel 4, which has a maximum received power of 11 watts – meaning it would cap at that even plugged into a 15W wireless charger.

The charging speeds of each wattage can be impacted by a variety of factors – such as how many apps are open, air temperature, battery size and how it’s placed on the pad – but very roughly, a 10W wireless charger should fill up a phone in 2-4 hours.

Adapter and set-up: Lastly, be aware of what connections come with the charger. It may only come bundled with a USB cable, but a separate adapter or plug connector may be needed to get the most of the power capacity. Despite their name, wireless chargers do indeed have a wire – the one that connects to a power source, whether it’s a laptop or a wall socket. Go for USB-C over Micro-USB if it’s possible.

If you’re using a wall plug connector you have at home, check it can provide enough wattage to match the full charging speed of the charger. For example, even if you plug a 15W charging stand with a 10W wall adapter – it will top out at 10W no matter what.

Top wireless chargers 

Great for Apple iPhones: MagSafe Charger 

Price: £36.99 Buy now on Amazon

MagSafe charger

Apple’s MagSafe Charger is a small puck-shaped device that contains its “MagSafe” technology – meaning it snaps onto the back of the iPhone 12s and iPhone 13s and provides up to 15W of power when paired with a 20W USB-C Power Adapter (sold separately for £19). The iPhone Minis top out at 12W, and Apple has confirmed that power is limited to 7.5W if accessories, such as headphones, are connected.

While the magnets are only in the latest iPhones, MagSafe chargers will work as far back as iPhone 8. Without using MagSafe, Qi wireless charging capacity tops out at 7.5W.

We loved the design in testing, especially how it lets you use the smartphone even while it’s connected. The white/silver colour scheme and the aluminium build quality means that it definitely stands out from the competition, which is generally coloured black and made of cheaper plastics.

In typical Apple fashion, its packaging was also better than all others – adding a premium feel. However, points are deducted for the charger not coming with a 20W adapter. Not having it in the box means the true cost of the MagSafe Charger – to get its peak performance – isn’t £39.00, but £58.

Great all-rounder: Belkin Boost Charge Stand 

Price: £29.99 £19.99 Buy now on Amazon

Belkin Boost

The Belkin Wireless Charging Stand has a fantastic design that combines a circular pad with a desk stand – providing up to 10W for Qi-enabled devices, including from Apple, Samsung and Google. We love that you can set your handset either upright or on its side while charging.

It comes packaged with a Quick Charge 3.0-compatible wall charger and cable, so you can get the maximum speeds possible. The Belkin Boost stand charges through any lightweight plastic phone cases of up to 3mm, too. It looks great, has more than enough juice, and at £19.99, it is a great all-rounder.

Great small option: INIU Wireless Charge Pad

Price: £15.99 Buy now on Amazon

UNIU pad

The INIU wireless charging pad is a great option if you don’t have much desk space or simply want a smaller model. The pad itself is roughly the same size as Apple’s MagSafe, but the INIU is slightly larger overall due to the plastic sides. What’s neat about the USB-C INIU pad is that it automatically switches between different power outputs – 5W, 7.5W, 10W and 15W – depending on the phone. And the LED light on the pad’s front adapts to bright or dim depending on the room conditions.

We were impressed with the UNIU pad in testing, as it packs a lot of power into the small frame – and all for under £20. To get a rough idea of charging times, we placed a Pixel 4 onto the pad at 26%, and it took exactly 30 minutes to gain another 20%. At that rate, it would take roughly 2.5 hours for the phone to fill up from zero.

Great for durability: ESR Wireless Charger Pad

Price:£18.99 Buy now on Amazon

ESR charger

The ESR Wireless Charger has a sturdy metal frame that makes it our top choice for durability. It is a circular pad in a gun-metal colouring and has an LED indicator strip running along the full 360 degrees of the pad that lights up when a phone is placed on top. Out of all the models we tested, we felt the ESR was the most attractive due to that industrial but minimalist aesthetic.

It’s not as powerful as some of the others, though, maxing out at 10W for Samsung Galaxy phones and 5W for Pixels. But for under £20, if you need a charger that will last a good while, this is a great option.

Great for multiple iOS devices: Belkin 3 in 1 MagSafe

Price: £149.99 £139.95 Buy now on Amazon

Belkin 3 in 1

If you are big into the Apple ecosystem and have multiple iOS devices – an iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods with wireless charging case – the Belkin 3 in 1 with MagSafe Charger is for you. It’s pricier than some of the others on our list, but for good reason – it’s not only a good brand, but it will simultaneously power all three devices.

It has Apple’s magnetic technology built-in, so your iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 will snap onto the stand in either a portrait or landscape orientation and give up to 15W. The white/chrome finish looks sleek, and it’s a great option for any Apple fanatics.

Great all-rounder: Anker PowerWave Pad 

Price: £18.99 £15.99 Buy now on Amazon

Anker Wireless Charger, PowerWave Pad

The Anker PowerWave wireless charging pad is another great all-rounder: it will give up to 10W of power, has a nice circular black aesthetic and is affordable. While it is not compatible with MagSafe, it will still provide up to 7.5W for iPhones, alongside 10W for Samsung handsets and 5W for Google Pixels.

The Anker PowerWave will also charge through cases up to 5mm thick and has an LED light that will flash if the handset is not correctly aligned, or it detects an obstruction. However, like the Apple MagSafe Charger, you will also need to buy a separate Quick Charge 2.0 or 3.0 adapter to get the best speeds. The Anker version is priced at £15.99 – bringing the cost of this charger to £31.98. Not a dealbreaker but something to consider.

Great for home use: INIU Wireless Stand (2-pack)

Price: £29.99 Buy now on Amazon

UNIU charger stand

INIU offers a two-pack set of wireless charging stands that we feel is a great option if you want to place more than one around your home, for example, one on your main desk and one beside your bed. There’s a lot we liked about these chargers during testing, including that they provide up to 15W of power, they work in both portrait or landscape orientations, and they have an LED light that dims in darker conditions.

It’s also a big plus that it uses the more modern USB-C cable, and in our testing, with a Google Pixel 4, it boosted the battery by 10% in 17 minutes. At that rate, it would take around 2 hours 50 minutes to fully charge the battery. The only major downside was that the casing is very plasticky, so the frame definitely lacks a premium feel. But we were ultimately fans of the stand shape over the pad shape because it lets you see your app notifications closer to eye level and suits much better for video calls.

Great single stand: Anker PowerWave Stand

Price: £19.99 Buy now on Amazon

Anker Wireless Charger, PowerWave Stand

If you only need a single wireless charging stand for your desk, Anker’s PowerWave series has you covered. It includes 10W charging for the Samsung Galaxy phones, 7.5W charging for iPhones and works with the handset in landscape or portrait.

As with the other PowerWave Pad that’s also on this list, however, you will need to buy an extra Quick Charge 2.0/3.0 wall adapter to obtain those 10W speeds, otherwise, Qi-enabled phones and devices will stick to 5W power. So it’s not the most powerful, but even with the true cost being £35.98, the shape is great if you need to use your phone while it’s charging, and Anker is a reliable brand for phone accessories.

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