What Are Wireless Chargers and How Do They Work?

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Once a bleeding-edge technology, wireless charging is now common. Most new phones can charge wirelessly, and many cars even have wireless chargers built into the center console. If you've recently bought a new phone from a carrier like Optimum Mobile, it likely supports wireless charging.

But how is it possible to charge a phone by just laying it on a charging pad? And what are the benefits? Learn more in our Optimum deep dive.

What Is Wireless Charging?

Wireless charging is more or less what it sounds like. It is a technology that transfers power to your phone wirelessly, without the need to plug your phone into a charger. Wireless charging is usually achieved via a pad or stand, as well as a wireless receiver built into the phone itself. The pad or stand (the "wireless charger") does need to be plugged into a wall outlet, but the charging process itself is wireless.

How Does Wireless Charging Work?

Fundamentally, all wireless chargers are based on the work of engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla, who created a way to transfer electricity through the air using an electromagnetic field. Tesla achieved this using his famous Tesla coils, but most wireless chargers today use different methods to create that electromagnetic field. There are three methods of wireless charging for phones: tightly coupled inductive, loosely coupled resonant, and uncoupled charging.

Tightly Coupled Inductive

Tightly coupled inductive chargers work on Tesla's principle, using two coils of wire (one on the charging pad, and another on the device) to create an electromagnetic field that transmits power. Inductive charging's main drawback is that it is very strict in terms of device placement. If you're charging a phone using an inductive pad, it must be in the correct position or it will not charge.

Tightly coupled inductive charging technology is backed by the Wireless Power Consortium, a group including tech giants like Apple, Google, and Samsung. Their interface standards include Qi, for wireless device charging, and Ki, for cordless kitchen appliances.

Loosely Coupled Resonant

Loosely coupled resonant charging works in almost exactly the same way as tightly coupled inductive charging. The main difference is in device placement. As long as your phone is at least somewhat on a resonant charging pad, it should charge.

Development and support of resonant charging are led by the AirFuel Alliance, a consortium of tech companies that includes Intel, Qualcomm, and Broadcom.


Uncoupled charging uses radio frequencies, ultrasound, and even infrared beams to send electricity wirelessly. In theory, it's the most useful wireless chagrin technology because it can send electricity over much longer distances than tightly coupled inductive or loosely coupled resonant. In practice, it is not widely used. While there are companies working on uncoupled charging, the work is still deep in the developmental phase. Currently, there are no uncoupled wireless phone chargers on the market.

Pros of Wireless Charging

Wireless chargers are convenient and very easy to use. Using one is as simple as placing your phone on the pad. Some wireless chargers are magnetic and will snap into place on the back of your phone (provided your phone supports that style of charging). They also can be extremely durable and tend to be much harder to break than your average charging cord.

If you usually leave your phone on a nightstand overnight, wireless chargers are fantastic. You can pick up your phone, check a message or snooze an alarm, then plop it back down without worrying about disconnecting it from a wired charger.

The vast majority of wireless chargers are Qi Certified, which is great if you or your family uses multiple types of phones or devices. Qi is a universal standard, so a single Qi charger can charge your phone and any other device that supports wireless charging. That means no digging around for the right cable when you've got friends over, and one of them needs to charge their phone.

Drawbacks of Wireless Charging

The biggest drawback of wireless charging is that it's only "wireless" in the strictest sense of the world. Your phone must stay on the charging pad in order to charge. While you can use your phone while it's charging on the pad, it's much harder to do compared to a traditional, wired charger.

Wireless chargers are also typically slower than their wired counterparts. This is for two reasons. First, wireless charging is less efficient than wired charging, because some power is always lost during the wireless transmission process. Second, the Qi standard maxes out at 15 watts of power. Wired chargers can be 20 watts or more, making them a strong option when speed is your primary concern.

Price is also a factor. Wireless chargers can be more expensive than wired chargers. You can find deals on sets of wired chargers and have multiple ready to go in your house, car, and office. But if you were to create a comparable setup of all wireless chargers, it would cost more.

Wireless chargers are great, especially if you've never used one before. While there can be some drawbacks, it's hard to beat the sheer convenience of just plopping your phone down on a pad. If you're still on an old phone that doesn't support wireless charging, Optimum Mobile has you covered with the latest and greatest. So grab your phone and get charging-wirelessly.

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