This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

The war on wires is raging in many industries, and smartphones aren’t an exception. First came the removal of the headphone jack, a not so gentle nudge to switch to wireless headphones or suffer the consequences (in the form of a dongle). Now, wireless charging is considered a must-have feature on a flagship phone. And while the addition of “wireless” to any technology comes with its pros and cons, with wireless charging, the pros aren’t really that many or that big.

Wireless, but more constrained 

In most cases, wireless means more freedom. Wireless mice and keyboards, for example, not only remove ugly cables from your desk, but you can use them to control your PC from your sofa – or just anywhere you feel like. Sure, you have to charge or change batteries once in a while, but overall, it’s almost an entirely positive experience. I completely agree with wireless headphones as well, especially the over-the-ear type. They have long battery life and not having to worry about wires when outside or just while sitting at your desk is something you get used to quickly. Then, if you have to switch back to wired ones, you really miss the freedom you’ve had before.

Imagine if wireless chargers worked without a wire. Just put them anywhere and they're ready to go! Now that would be awesome!

Imagine if wireless chargers worked without a wire. Just put them anywhere and they’re ready to go! Now that would be awesome!

Wireless charging is not like that, however. To use it, you put your phone on a charging pad or a stand and leave it there, as if frozen. Technically, you can use it, but you can’t move it or it will stop charging. Receiving a phone call that you need to take? Sure, do it, but your phone won’t be charging! If it’s a long call, it might die while you’re talking. With a wired charger, meanwhile, you can use your phone as usual, with just the added inconvenience of the cable getting in the way.

Even if you don’t make lengthy calls and just have to respond to a message once in a while, it still means you have to interrupt the charging every time. Sure, batteries now are not like in the olden days when it was suggested to not disconnect your phone until the battery is full. But still, I can’t be the only one that feels weird for breaking the charging process into multiple segments.

Now, if wireless charging was more integrated into our daily lives – in desks with built-in chargers, for example, or nightstands (I know that such exist but they are few and far between) – it would have at least been cleaner-looking process than charging with a cable. But right now, you still have to plug a charger and have a wire run to where your phone is. All that, only for it to become wireless for the last couple of millimeters, saving you precious seconds and the mammoth effort of plugging a cable to your phone.

At least some chargers double as a phone stand, which does add some convenience compared to the flat ones
At least some chargers double as a phone stand, which does add some convenience compared to the flat ones

At least some chargers double as a phone stand, which does add some convenience compared to the flat ones

It’s not even a good way to charge things

So, you have your phone on your wireless charger and you feel like you’re living in the future, right? Not really. Wireless charging is not some new, fancy technology. It’s been around for a while and it’s kind of primitive compared to the other stuff found on your phone. It’s a really inefficient way to charge your device, like two people trying to have a conversation by yelling on both sides of a wall. A big chunk of the power used by the charger is wasted, converted into heat instead, slowly deteriorating the health of the battery in the process.  And while now there are faster wireless chargers, it’s generally slower than a wired connection, so why even bother with it?

Now, an argument can be made that a wireless charger can be used by all sorts of compatible devices, so you don’t need to look for separate cables. But over the years, manufacturers have actually become pretty good at sticking to a certain type of cable, usually USB Type-C or Lightning. I remember the days when every phone brand used a different plug. Now that’s when wireless charging would have been useful! Today, though, as long as you put a little thought into picking your gadgets, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be able to charge them all with a single cable.

Premium feature? More like premium bait!

You might have noticed that despite arriving in smartphones a few years ago, wireless charging is still a feature present almost exclusively on flagship devices. Is it because of its cost? I doubt it. We’ve seen other, more expensive features, like multi-camera modules, trickle down to mid-range and even budget devices, but a copper coil is too much? It doesn’t make sense. Sure, there’s Qi certification on top of the parts cost, but I doubt that’s the stopper.

In this day and age, flagship phones are having a hard time standing out from less expensive devices. Manufacturers are forced to put as many features as they can on them to make them worth the four-figure price tag. Naturally then, you can’t miss wireless charging, or your phone will seem inferior. Plus, on paper, “wireless charging” does sound like a cool tech to have. I’m sure plenty of people imagined they’d use it a lot more often than they actually do.

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is one of the few phones that come with a wireless charger in the box

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is one of the few phones that come with a wireless charger in the box

But manufacturers probably know that it’s not a feature that the majority of users care about or demand. That’s why going just a tier down and suddenly, wireless charging is nowhere to be found. And no one really minds. Of course, there’s always that one guy (I’ve seen you in the comments!) that complains about the lack of wireless charging in every phone that misses it, but that’s not really a fair representation of the users’ needs, is it? There’s also another reason wireless charging is not welcomed on all phones.

Just another design limitation

As you may or may not know, wireless charging doesn’t work through all materials. Most importantly, induction can’t pass through metal. The same is true for most radio signals used in smartphones as well, which is why models with metal backplates had antennas around the edges. The charging coils, however, are a lot larger and usually right in the middle of the phone, so metal is out of the question altogether. Of course, you can’t have plastic on the back of a flagship phone. That’s a material for peasants! Now it’s all about glass or rather glass-like composites. And while manufacturers have been doing a great job at offering color variety, the overall feel and look of most modern smartphones is pretty similar. Plus, no matter how tough and scratch-resistant the composites get, they’re no replacement for good old metal.

 

The iPhone 7 generation was the last with aluminum backs

The iPhone 7 generation was the last with aluminum backs

So while you’re gaining the questionable convenience of wireless charging, you’re compromising your phone’s durability. Yeah, you can always compensate for that with a case, just make sure it’s not too thick or you’ll have to remove it every time you want to charge your phone. So handy, right?

Conclusion

Maybe that’s me just being an old-fashioned grump that doesn’t like to change his ways, but I think in its current state, wireless charging is underwhelming. I have a wireless charger on my desk and I frequently use phones that can take advantage of it. Even then, I don’t feel like the few percent of battery that I’ll get between having to pick up my phone are worth the hassle. Unless your phone’s battery is in such a state that it needs constant boosts to get you through the day, you’re better off charting your phone with a cable at night or whenever you have some downtime.

But surely, other people have different habits and experiences that prove the usefulness of wireless charging. Tell me how wireless charging found its place in your life and are you enjoying using it. Maybe I’m missing some important aspect of this tech that can make me feel different about it. I’m eager to read your thoughts in the comments below.

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