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Here's why the Pixel 3 charges faster on a Pixel Stand than other wireless chargers

Pixel Stand
Pixel Stand (Image credit: Android Central)

One of the great things about the Pixel 3 is its support for wireless charging. It took a while until Qi charging became ubiquitous on most popular phones — the Nexus 4 and 5 had it, but Google removed the feature with the Nexus 5X and 6P for lack of adoption — but brought it back with the Pixel 3. Now that it's back, it's become another thing that doesn't work exactly how everyone thought it would.

Wireless charging doesn't only mean Qi charging.

Google says the Pixel 3 is capable of wirelessly charging at speeds of 10 watts. There are complicated formulas that determine how fast a phone can charge, but generally, the more wattage being used by the phone the faster it charges. The issue is that the Pixel 3 only charges at 10 watts on wireless chargers certified for the "Made for Google" program, and right now the Pixel Stand is the only Made for Google charging base. (Belkin has announced (opens in new tab) one, but it's not available yet.) On any other Qi-compatible wireless charging pad it charges at 5 watts — half the power, which means it takes twice as long to charge.

Google hasn't disclosed its reasoning for developing its own fast wireless charging standard, but here's the likely scenario.

The Qi standard

Version 1.2.3 (the latest publically available version) of the Qi standard states that "The Power Class 0 power transfer system enables the transfer of at least 5 W and up to 30 W of load power. The actual amount of power that can be transferred between the power transmitter and power receiver is subject to negotiation between them during the communication phases that occur before power transfer." Power Class 0 is for what the standard describes as "low-power devices" and it includes phones.

On a regular wireless charger, your Pixel 3 will charge at 5 watts, which is slower than it would at 10 watts.

We know that Google isn't using the baseline Qi standard to negotiate charging. The company told Android Police that it has developed a "secure handshake" when a Pixel 3 is placed on a wireless charger, and only chargers that pass this security check will charge at 10 watts. Chargers that do not pass are limited to 5-watt charging.

No details about the secure handshake are available, but an official statement from Google reads:

We don't limit third-party devices, in fact, we're working with our partners in the Made for Google program to get fast 10W chargers certified for use with Pixel 3 (Belkin announced its 10W Pixel 3 charger already which will launch in the coming weeks). Pixel Stand and Pixel 3 work together through the protocol we've developed for fast charging. Everything else charges at the industry standard Qi 5W."

Technically, Google supports Qi charging and 10-watt wireless charging on the Pixel 3. But it does not support 10-watt wireless charging using the Qi standard.

The biggest question we have is why Google is doing this. We were told at the Pixel 3 event that a custom authentication communication was developed by Google so the phone knows when you're using your stand at home, or at work, versus a public charger, and displays content accordingly. For example, the Pixel Stand allows for improved Assistant support and a photo frame "ambient mode". This makes sense and would explain the "secure" tag placed on the handshake between phone and charger. But it does nothing to explain why standard Qi charging is capped at 5 watts.

Until Google tells us all more about what it is doing, why it is doing it, and (ideally) how it is doing it, this is all we know. It's frustrating, but not as frustrating as knowing you'll need to buy an expensive branded charger to get fast wireless charging for your Pixel 3.

That said, the Pixel Stand is a pretty great wireless charger — if you can stomach its $79 price tag.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

38 Comments
  • dola bills yo
  • Lol who would buy a pixel phone to begin with 😂
  • Millions have, do, and will?
  • Why make it personal? Are we back in high school?
  • This seems pretty ridiculous. I just don't see the pixel as being all that compelling. The audio issues are just not what you should have to deal with at that price.
  • Not to mention the piss poor ram management. The pixel is certified trash..
  • Sadly it seems so. Hearing many faults. Not acceptable on a phone that costs so damn much. It had to be flawless, and even then not worth the cost.
  • Pixel 3 user here. I have yet to experience the ram management or audio issues described. I tried switching between apps like the reviewers did and did not experience an issue with up to 10+apps. I did not use Twitter though, which seemed to cause issues on several of the videos I watched. Maybe an app issue instead
  • Sadly few are going to see this message. Millions have already seen the videos. It's very sad.
  • That’s pretty awesome, and I’m glad you haven’t had issues! Mine sure as hell exhibits every damn one of them, and then some. Not an app issue, unless it’s an app That a Google installed, as it did some of the same crap to me after a wipe. The audio thing when recording video... I haven’t seen one yet that DIDN’T do that.
  • How does the stand work with other phones?
  • It charged my iPhone Xs Max just fine.
  • Wow, Google really does wanna' be Apple.
  • Precisely my thoughts. Pathetic.
  • First thing that I thought too when reading this. Restricting choice of third-party accessories? Really? I left Apple for a reason.
  • Offtopic, is that the always-on display on th Pixel? I've yet to find an app that i can scroll through the track( forward, rewind ) on the lockscreen, if anyone knows a solution, please reply. Thanks
  • That's what is looks like when you put the Pixel 3/Pixel 3 XL on the Pixel 3.
  • That's the image on a Pixel Stand
  • OK, so Google is milking those of us who prefer wireless charging. Fine for a desktop, etc. Now... what about my car, Google? My current Sammy S8+ gets the fast wireless charging it needs in my car via the iOttie One-Touch 4.
  • So does my S7.
  • I'm feeling a new meme coming on, Scumbag Google.
  • Interesting decision, more revenue.
  • Did any one noticed the Google stand uses Bluetooth to communicate with the pixel 3/3xl?
  • Can anyone comment on how much slower 5w is than 10w? Other that twice as long. Are we talking 50% charge in 2 hrs vs 1 hr or more like 4 hrs vs 1 hr?
  • Half the wattage, so... twice as long, at least for the first 50-70% or so, if it tapers the 10w down towards the end of the charging cycle. Realistically speaking - very easily could be 3.5 hours vs 2, give or take a bit.
  • You'd think at least one reviewer would've tested this by now rather than speculating right along with us... Haven't seen but one do it tho. The OG Pixel tapered charge rate way way down at 50% FWIW, and the 2nd one actually charged slower from the start on a wire (15W vs 10W - what the 2 was capped at), so who knows... Not a bad guesstimate tho.
  • Why the hell did they have to create yet another wireless charging 'standard'?? Even Apple built their phone to the Qi standard. Now we won't even be able to buy a cheap 3rd party charger because they'll have to pay Google to get the "made for Pixel" certification. Ridiculous.
  • Yea, but Apple didn't build their watch to the Qi standard. (Moto did when they were making smart watches)
  • So did Fossil, and it's unknown whether Apple really built their phone entirely to the Qi standard or adopted whatever Samsung was doing... A lot of pad makers did launch updated pads to work at Apple's 7.5W, and none of them or Samsung's are rated for more than 5W on the Qi site's registration sheets. I half expected Jerry to diagnose this a little more in depth but it might require spending entirely too much on extra pads for something most people will just live with regardless.
  • So if you want 10W charging you have to pay another 80.00 bucks for the pixal stand. Other chargers will charge at 5W's. Mo money out of pocket!
  • The pixal stand charger is 80.00 bucks. The sad part it's probably worth 20.00 bucks. So just add that price to an already overpriced phone!
  • But before you can stomach the $79 for a charging stand, you have to stomach at minimum $799 for the phone itself. Yeah no thanks.
  • When will that Pixel Stand hit ifixit? I want to see it torn apart.
  • Don't think for ONE MINUTE apple isn't going to do with with their wireless charger. Why do you think it is taking them two years to develop it?
  • Who cares what Apple is doing. The point of Android is they are the anti-thesis of Apple. The problem with Pixel is they are following Apple's practice. That is why this is so dirty.
  • When Apple does it... they are considered pioneers... when google does it... people get irate.
  • When apple does it you guys laugh at them when google does the same you guys say “well apple did it” pathetic
  • So after you buy either or you have to spend another 80.00 bucks for the 10W pixal stand? Every other charger will only charge at 5W's, yikes! This is not so good! All I can say like Apple you pay more & get less!