Qi chargers

We take a look at three popular Qi wireless charging solutions and put them head to head in Jerry's bedroom

Qi (pronounced Chee, and is totally a word no matter what Words with Friends says) is a wireless standard developed in 2009 by the Wireless Power Consortium. The standard itself covers inductive power transfer over short distances -- up to four centimeters -- and uses a electromagnet embedded in a transmission pad to induce current in a coil on the back of the thing you're charging. In our case, that means a Nexus 4 smartphone.

With big-name device makers like Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola and Nokia (as well as others) using the standard, it is slowly emerging as the winner in the obscure wireless charging war that goes on in cubicles all over the world. Long live Qi! On a serious note, it's an open standard with over 100 companies in Asia, Europe and North America cooperating to set a good standard that everyone can implement. That's good for business, and good for consumers in the long run. Of course, there will always be companies that buck the trend and take another path, but for now if you're going to spend your hard-earned money on a wireless charger that you should be able to use for the life of multiple devices, Qi charging is the way to go.

Because it's a standard, there are quite a few different companies making the base stations (a fancy term for the charging pad). I took a look at the three most popular and put them head to head to see which one I'd recommend. While I used a Nexus 4 for my tests, these chargers should work for any Qi-compatible phone with a flat back. Jump past the break and see who wins the Qi charger showdown.

We put the "Official" Nexus 4 charging orb, the LG WCP-300 wireless charger, and the Nokia DT-900 charging pad side by side on the nightstand, right next to where I lay my head every night. I charge my phone every night without fail, and use it as my alarm clock so I'm used to having it right there beside me every night. All three performed well enough, but we need to go deeper. Let's have a look at each, and see the pros and cons.

The Nexus 4 wireless charger

Nexus 4 wireless charger

It's a sexy little half sphere, and unlike the other two chargers I tried, raises the phone to an angle that makes it a bit easier to see. While all induction chargers have a very slight bit of magnetic attraction, the Nexus 4 charger uses a ring of sticky rubber to keep the phone in place. For some reason, a few people have trouble with this and their phone falls off in the middle of the night. I've been using this one since they first became available, with multiple phones and haven't had that issue. Like Stonehenge, this has become a mystery that will never be fully understood. Your mileage may vary, you have been warned, etc.

If your phone stays on the charger as designed, it works really well. I tried with a bare-ass naked phone, while using the official LG bumper, and my trusty purple TPU case. The phone charged just fine in all three scenarios.

Pros

  • Uses micro USB standard cable
  • Raises phone to a more visible angle
  • Is heavy enough to not move when fiddling with it in the dark
  • Easy to find
  • Says Nexus on the front #HOLOYOLO (I had to find a fifth pro somewhere)

Cons

  • Phones slide off for plenty of folks
  • It's bigger than it needs to be
  • The sticky rubber ring collects lint and dust
  • Only available online
  • Warranty process is difficult

The single killer feature of the Nexus 4 charger is its weight. Especially if you use a case. In the middle of the night, when the room is dark and your eyes haven't adjusted it won't slide around while you're trying to position your phone in the right spot. 

The con that kills the whole thing is that you run the risk of your phone not staying in place if you're unlucky. We have no idea why this happens to the people it happens to, but know going in that others have serious issues with this.

The LG WCP-300 wireless charger

LG WCP-300 wireless charger

Next up is the smallest of the lot, the LG WCP-300. About the same diameter as the Nexus 4 charger, but just a half-inch tall. This one has no issues with phones sliding off, and is an "official" LG accessory if that sort of thing is important to you. It's also very light, which means it slides around a good bit if your phone has a grippy TPU case on it. Positioning things just right can be a bit difficult at first, but that won't take very long to get used to. 

I was able to charge my Nexus 4 using the WCP-300 while naked, in a TPU case, and with the official bumper (see below) and it worked as described on the tin each time. 

Pros

  • Small and light, it's a perfect travel companion
  • Available from your local Verizon store so you can see it before you buy
  • Uses the micro USB standard for power connection
  • Dim amber power lamp lets you know it's plugged in
  • $20 cheaper than the Nexus charging orb

Cons

  • Very light and will move while positioning your phone if you use a TPU case
  • The dim amber power indicator lamp changes into a blinding green flashing beacon when charging your phone
  • A Nexus 4 with a bumper is very hard to position
  • Flat angle makes it difficult to use your phone as a bedside clock
  • THE BLINDING GREEN BLINKING LIGHT

The killer feature of the WPC-300 is the small size and portability. You could buy a spare to toss into your bag and have it available at a conference center or hotel desk. If the big draw of a Qi charger is being able to grab your phone and use it without a wire hanging out of it's tail, and you travel a lot, this is the one to buy.

On the other hand, the width (2.75-inches in diameter) makes it too wide to fit between the edges of a Nexus 4 bumper, but not wide enough to catch both sides equally. If you use a bumper-style case, pass on this one. And that light. I'm being serious -- it's like a discotheque in a dark bedroom. I could cover it with a bit of tape, or I could just use a charger that doesn't shoot green laser beams in my bedroom all night.

Nokia DT-900 wireless charger

Nokia DT-900 wireless charger

Because the Qi standard is, well, standard, it means chargers made from other companies will work just fine on your phone -- even evil companies that partner with Microsoft Nokia. The DT-900 uses the same exact Qi method to charge your Nexus 4 that any other Qi charger would use, making it a true universal accessory. 

The DT-900 itself is a bit bigger than the others I tried, with a 120mm by 60mm footprint. It's also very light like the LG WPC-300, meaning that you're going to be pushing it all over your desk or nightstand if you have a TPU case on your phone.  It is pretty stylish though, coming in five different colors (white, black, red, yellow and blue) to match your decor. 

It also worked as advertised with a naked phone, while wearing a TPU case, or with the Nexus 4 bumper installed. 

Pros

  • Super cheap. Find it at daily deals sites for $25 or less
  • Comes in colors other than black
  • Also available from Verizon, so you can see it before you buy it
  • Well constructed from premium-feeling materials, like everything else Nokia makes
  • It's the perfect size for a Nexus 4 wearing a bumper

Cons

  • Does not use the micro USB standard for power connection
  • Bigger footprint than the others
  • Moves when you try to position a phone with a TPU case
  • The "sweet spot" can be hard to find
  • The flat angle makes it difficult to use your phone as a nightstand clock

The one killer feature of the Nokia DT-900 is it's size and shape. If you have a Nexus 4 and use the official bumper, the DT-900 fits right inside of it, against the back of the phone. Just reach over, drop your phone in place using the bumper as a guide, and your phone will charge.

The major drawback is the non-standard power connection. You'll have to use the included cord and power block, and that means more junk in your travel bag or another cord to keep track of. While replacements are probably available, they would likely cost as much as the whole charger kit itself.

The winner

Nokia is the winner

As much as it kills me that the official Nexus 4 charging orb didn't get the nod here, I have to go with what works best for me. That's the Nokia DT-900. The way it nestles in the cavity created by the Nexus 4 bumper makes it a no-brainer to use, and when using a TPU case or nothing at all it still works fine. 

Your phone won't slip off, and there is no alien-invasion style blinking green light show to keep you up at night. I wish it used a normal USB cable for power, but then again I'm not planning on spending too many nights at a hotel this year.

What really puts it over the top is the price. As mentioned, I picked this one up for $24 at Daily Steals, making it a full $15 cheaper than the LG WPC-300 and a whopping $35 cheaper than the official Nexus accessory. Stop by your local Verizon store to play with the floor model and see for yourself (but be sure to buy it online and save $25). 

Any of these chargers (or the many other Qi-powered alternatives you'll find on the Internet) will charge your Nexus 4 without too many issues. There is no big secret -- drop your phone on the right spot and it charges until it's full or you lift it off. But the little things matter, and I've got to hand this one to the Nokia.