Why you should trust us
I've been reviewing mobile accessories since 2012, and I've been covering them for Wirecutter since 2015. I'm also the author of Wirecutter's guides to USB wall chargers and car chargers, through which I've seen and tested pretty much every available charging variation.
I researched and wrote Wirecutter's first guide to Qi wireless chargers in 2017 and have been consistently testing new models and updating the guide since. I also wrote our guide to Qi power banks, the battery packs that use the same wireless technology.
Who this is for
These charging bases are designed for people who own multiple Apple devices—namely, an iPhone, an Apple Watch, and AirPods—and want to charge them all at once with zero effort, presumably overnight. Like a single-device Qi charger, these work without plugging cords into any of your devices.
Qi (pronounced "chee") is the wireless-charging standard from the Wireless Power Consortium, an industry group with more than 220 members, including device manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung, accessory makers such as Belkin and Mophie, and others. For a charger to be certified by the WPC, the manufacturer has to submit it to an authorized test lab.
If you want the fastest possible charge for your iPhone, you need to use a cable—going wireless is about convenience, not speed. Affordable, wired 12 W USB chargers can charge your iPhone at least 30 percent faster than a Qi charger, while an 18 W USB-PD charger paired with a USB-C–to–Lightning cable can approach 50 percent faster.
The other downside to wireless charging is that you can't pick up your phone and use it while it's charging, unlike with a cable connection. This makes a wireless option better for recharging overnight or when you want to see the phone's display on your desk or in the kitchen, rather than while you're watching Netflix or scrolling through Twitter.
How we picked
A good wireless charger should meet all of the following basic criteria, which we used as guidelines for our research:
- WPC and MFi certification: We considered only chargers that have been certified by the WPC. This means that a charger has been tested and found to be both safe and in compliance with the Qi standard. If a wireless charger isn't certified, that doesn't necessarily indicate that it's unsafe or noncompliant—but choosing something that has been verified is prudent. The same can be said for MFi certification, which is Apple's program and applies specifically to the charging puck.
- Charging speed: All the chargers we tested advertised 7.5-watt charging for iPhones, which is the fastest rate at which the handsets will charge. We weren't concerned with the faster 10-watt charging that some Android phones support because it's unlikely you'll be using an Android phone alongside an Apple Watch.
- Design: We considered not only how the charging pad looks but also how grippy its surface is for holding a phone in place, how easy it is to align a device, and where the watch sits. We also noted any extras such as indicator lights.
- Noise: Some wireless chargers put out a faint (and sometimes not-so-faint) whine or clicking noise, which can quickly become annoying. We listened for this in our tests and noted any issues.
- Maker reputation: We considered models only from companies that we knew had a good reputation for warranty coverage and customer support. Even if a charger is WPC certified, there are no guarantees it will never have a problem, and you want to be able to get help if you need it.
How we tested
All the stations we tested will charge an iPhone about the same amount in a given time. They're slower than single-device wireless chargers and much slower than wired chargers.
We tested the performance of each wireless charging base by placing a fully drained iPhone XR on the charging pad. We measured the phone's battery level after 30 minutes and then again after a full hour. Any reputable Qi charger will fully charge any phone in a few hours, and certainly overnight, so we were instead looking for differences in short-term charging. I first tested everything at my desk, but if I heard a sound that could potentially be disruptive, I also tested the charger in my bedroom at night, sleeping with it a couple of feet from my head to see if the noise would interfere with my sleep.
Our pick: Mophie 3-in-1 Wireless Charging Pad
The Mophie 3-in-1 Wireless Charging Pad is the best choice if you want a single charging station that can power your iPhone, Apple Watch, and second-gen AirPods at once. It's better designed to accommodate AirPods and the Apple Watch than any of the models we tested. We liked the simple, clean aesthetics and attention to detail, like the rubber elements that ensure your devices won't slip.
None of the iPhone and Apple Watch charging combos we tested fill up the phone's battery quite as fast as the fastest single-device charging stands. Since it's slower, we think this combined charger is best for a nightstand or desk, where you're most likely to be charging your phone, watch, and headphones, and the slower charge won't be as big of a concern. The Mophie charger powered the iPhone to about 20 percent after half an hour and 38 percent in an hour. All of the other charging stations' figures were within a few percentage points of these. The Apple Watch, also starting at zero, got to 40 percent battery capacity after a half hour and 68 percent after an hour.
Battery results charging on the Mophie 3-in-1
The Mophie 3-in-1, and every competitor we tested, charged devices more slowly than the more common single-device wireless chargers.
The unique feature of the Mophie 3-in-1 is the little scooped-out space for the AirPods case. Other Qi charging stations require you to align the case properly, which can be difficult, especially without a clear visual guide. The Mophie solves this with a roughly 2-inch-square divot in the otherwise flat surface, and it's lined with grippy rubber. It makes charging the AirPods obvious and failproof, so you don't have to worry about heading to work with dead headphones.
Apple only certifies Apple Watch chargers that use charging pucks it provides, so we know the Mophie is going to be safe for charging any Apple Watch. It works with open or closed bands and holds the watch in landscape orientation, with a shelf along the bottom of the magnetic puck for added stability. It's designed to let the digital crown nestle in place and keep the watch flat; ideally you could press anywhere along the top edge to snooze the alarm when it goes off. But amusingly, watchOS only displays landscape Nightstand mode when the crown is facing up, making this thoughtful design detail useless and causing the watch to sit slightly askew. It's not a dealbreaker, but it's odd for sure.
The charger has a very basic, yet still handsome, design. It's a 7-by-4-inch rounded pill-shaped device. Its body is primarily glossy black glass (a version was released after our testing with a microsuede lining and identical specs), though rubber feet on the bottom prevent the charger itself from sliding around, and a ring of rubber around the outer edge securely holds your phone. The charging coil where you need to place your iPhone is indicated by the Mophie logo on the left side, which activates a soft-white status bar when it's providing power. The lights are dim and turn off after about 30 seconds, so they shouldn't disturb your sleep if you keep it on your nightstand.
The power cord that you plug into the back of the Mophie 3-in-1 uses a round, barrel-style connection instead of Micro-USB or USB-C, so it's not as easy to replace if something goes wrong or you lose it. But Mophie offers a two-year warranty on its products, including the 3-in-1 Charging Station. We have found the company to be quite responsive to customer inquiries and wouldn't expect any issues with getting service within this period.
I did hear a very, very quiet coil whine in our tests, but that was only with my ear right next to the device. I slept with it about two feet from my head, and neither I nor my wife noticed it in our otherwise-silent bedroom.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The Mophie 3-in-1 is an absolute fingerprint magnet, much like the screen of an iPhone or iPad. Because you'll most likely be using it overnight, this is probably less offensive than it would be with an accessory that's used in the daylight. But if you are thrown off by smudged glossy surfaces or plan on keeping it in an office or a living room, this charger may not be for you. Since our testing, Mophie released a fabric-covered version. We didn't test that one, but it's worth considering if you're concerned about fingerprints.
Unlike the two other models we tested, the Mophie can only be used for the specific combination of a phone, an Apple Watch, and AirPods. You can't use the AirPods charging spot for a second phone. It's a solution for someone who's heavily bought into the Apple ecosystem.
We generally prefer stands that hold the phone up at an angle rather than leaving it lying flat. The Mophie doesn't offer this kind of viewing angle, but neither do any of the models available for sale during our research.
Also great: Zens Dual+Watch Aluminum Wireless Charger
The Zens Dual+Watch Aluminum Wireless Charger is a good alternative to the Mophie 3-in-1, particularly if you occasionally charge two phones at once. But it's harder to line up the AirPods case without any markings or a dedicated divot, and even getting a phone into the right position can take a little bit of finagling. But it charges everything just as fast, and it's as sharp looking, if not more so, thanks to the less fingerprint-y rubber top and the metal elements.
Both charging spots on the Zens chargers have wireless coils that support 10-watt charging in general and 7.5-watt charging for iPhones. The charge rates were in line with what we measured on the Mophie: 21 percent in 30 minutes and 40 percent in an hour. While you can use the second charging spot for AirPods, the biggest difference with the Zens is that you can also use that second spot to charge another phone at full speed. If you carry two phones, this could be a great reason to choose the Zens over the Mophie.
The rubber material provides plenty of grip, which offers assurance that your devices won't be sliding around or vibrating off the charging sweet spot. But the targets for alignment are rather small, and we found it difficult to get the AirPods to the right position without adjusting them. Because phones have larger charging coils it's easier to get them to the right spot, but sometimes we had to adjust the phone after the initial placement to make the connection.
Zens uses an Apple Watch charging puck on this stand that's officially licensed by Apple. It's embedded in a stalk sticking up from the pad's left edge and holds the watch in portrait orientation. If you have a phone on the left charging pad, you may need to close your watchband to prevent it from dangling on top of the screen.
Like the Mophie charger, this Zens model uses a power adapter that connects into the back with a round barrel plug instead of a more standard USB connector. If you need a replacement, you'll have to contact the company directly. But Zens offers a two-year warranty, extendable to three years with registration. Upon closer scrutiny, I also heard a similar coil whine from the Zens as I did from the Mophie, but I didn't notice it in my quiet bedroom while sleeping.
The Nomad Base Station Apple Watch Edition is very handsome but lacks any sort of alignment indicators, so it takes some trial and error to ensure your phone is charging. Its leather surface is also far slippier than the Mophie's grippy rubber edge. While it has the most minimalist look of the charging stations currently available, it's simply more difficult to use. And it's often backordered, meaning you might not even be able to buy it if you want it.
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