Over the last few years wireless charging has gone from novelty concept to a conventional function of any modern iPhone. We won’t pretend that wireless charging is always an ideal substitute for plugging in, but it’s a very hassle-free way to keep your phone topped off throughout the day. Freed from the bother of plugging and unplugging, a wireless charger on your desk is as good a place as any to set your phone, knowing the battery is being steadily replenished, and ready for your next outing. A wireless charger by your bed makes it easy to grab and go in the morning, or just to “check one thing” without fussing with the lightning cable.
MagSafe, the next generation
Apple officially gave up on its ambition to bring the AirPower wireless charger to market back in 2019. Instead, the company has moved ahead with a far more useful and intriguing idea: MagSafe. It debuted on the iPhone 12 (every model) but we expect it to continue to be available on future iPhones.
MagSafe combines a ring of magnets for secure attachment, an single-coil NFC to identify accessories, and a magnetometer to know when an item is attached, all around a more powerful Qi-based wireless charging coil (up to 15 watts, up from 7.5 watts in other iPhones). Note that a lot of devices are being billed as “MagSafe compatible,” but that doesn’t mean they support the faster charging or NFC—they merely have a ring of magnets in them. MagSafe compatible is not necessarily real MagSafe.
iPhones with MagSafe still work with regular Qi wireless chargers, they are just limited to the same 7.5-watt charging rate as earlier iPhones with them. And MagSafe is used for more than just charging—the magnetic attachment feature will make it possible to snap on all sorts of accessories.
Since MagSafe accessories are not all just for charging, and require an iPhone 12, we’ll round those up in an article separate from this one.
The best wireless chargers
Wireless chargers tend to come in three variants: stands, pads, and multi-device chargers. A pad is great for your bed-side table or lying inconspicuously on your desk, but there are times when a stand makes more sense. In particular, they’re useful for iPhones with Face ID, as a good stand with a steep angle will point your phone at your face enough for Face ID to work. This makes it a lot easier to unlock your phone to quickly check something without taking it off the charger.
Stands are great for reading your phone while it charges, but sometimes you want it to lie flat. It’s less conspicuous on your desk or bedside table, and easier to just plop it down in any direction. Wireless charging pads tend to be a little less expensive than stands, too.
Now that AirPods have an optional wireless charging case and the Apple Watch is so popular, we’ve also seen an explosion of 2-in-1 and 3-in-1 chargers meant to charge several Apple devices at once.
These are our picks for the best pad, stand, and multi-device charger, but there are a great many such products out there; you may find a different device at a different price better suits your priorities.