Wireless inductive charging seems to be a kind of Holy Grail lately -- a lot of companies are on the quest to bring it to all smartphone and tablet devices. I recently reviewed a battery case that charges an iPhone wirelessly. It's actually pretty nice to walk into the house or office, and put my iPhone down on a charging pad to top off the battery. There are no cables involved and no hassle. Of course, there is a power cable to the charging pad, but that doesn't have to be constantly plugged and unplugged.
iQi (pronounced i-chee) has an interesting new product called the iQi Mobile Receiver that provides wireless charging using your own soft case. It doesn't work with rigid polycarbonate iPhone cases.
- Wireless Receiver: Qi compatible
- Fits most soft iPhone cases for iPhone 5, 5c and 5s
- Requires USB 2.0 or later
- Charger Pads
- Cable is USB/micro USB
- Micro USB input: DC 5V, 500-2100 mA
- No alignment or magnets needed
- Power Transmission Distance: 8mm
The iQi Mobile Receiver (US$35.11) is a thin card only 0.5 mm thick attached to a flexible ribbon cable that plugs into your Lightning port. The card portion wraps around to the back of the phone, and then you slide your phone into its existing soft case to hide the receiver. You'll also need a Qi charging pad to complete the charging solution. A pad roughly in the shape of your phone is $42.00, and a smaller hockey puck-shaped charger runs $45.00. Those charging pads are plugged into a USB port on an AC adapter or computer. When you set your receiver-equipped phone down on the charging pad, the charging starts. The iQi Mobile Receiver was the result of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign that surpassed its goal in just 10 days.
The iQi Mobile Receiver is simple to install, although you have to take care to not over-flex the thin ribbon cable. An adhesive sticker is provided to attach the receiver card to the back of your iPhone 5 so that the card doesn't flop around inside your case. With the card installed and the phone placed Into a soft case, you will barely notice any increase in thickness.
The charging pads emit a green light when connected to power. When your phone is in the proper charging position, that light turns blue. If the charging pad beeps several times, it is telling you the position of the phone needs to be adjusted.
I found wireless charging to be totally addictive. When you get used to it, it takes away the hassle of plugging and unplugging charging cables. The iQi system works well. If you don't have a soft case for your phone, the Mobile Receiver comes with a silicone case that protects the phone and keeps everything aligned.
The Lightning connector that's used with the Mobile Receiver is not Apple MFi (Made For iPhone) approved, and you may see a message appear on your iPhone screen telling you that. Just dismiss the message and charging should continue without issue.
Some Samsung smartphones provide iQi as an optional extra, and a few Google Nexus smartphones offer wireless charging options as well. At this point, Apple doesn't provide a Qi charging option, so this is a workable solution. Charging isn't quite as fast as when directly connected to a charger, but I found the speeds to be acceptable.
Unlike the Aero Wireless Charging case reviewed last week, the iQi solution does not provide extended battery life -- it's just a charging solution for your current phone. The Aero costs $99.95, while the cheapest iQi solution (after purchasing the receiver and charging pad) runs about $76.00. Consumers need to decide if the extra battery life provided by the Aero case is worth the extra expense and how important it is to retain your existing soft case.
The iQi wireless charging system works very well and lets any iPhone 5 charge without cables attached to the phone (other than the one-time receiver plug-in). I have a few worries about the lifespan of the flexible ribbon cable and that the Lightning connector is not Apple approved. Future Apple updates could possibly disable charging if unapproved hardware is attached.