Qi or Powermat? What's the difference and which should you choose?

Wireless charging has been around for some time now, though for a myriad of reasons has never really picked up steam. Now that we're seeing more devices support the tech by baking it right into the device instead of making you purchase some ill-fitting or less-than-ideal accessory, there are plenty of folks out there ready to make the switch and abandon their microUSB cables entirely.

The only catch is there are two different kinds of wireless charging — Qi and Powermat — and you probably need to choose one and stick with it. Here's what you need to know.

Check out our primer on how wireless charging works, in plain English.

Choosing between Qi and Powermat is simple if your current device only works with one or the other, but recently we've seen Android phones made by different manufacturers that support both. Though Samsung has baked both technologies into the Galaxy S6 line, for now all of the other devices make you choose one or the other. Neither standard plays well with one another, which means a Qi charger won't charge a Powermat device and vice versa. If you've got the S6 or S6 edge you can just pick whatever strikes your fancy and be done with it, but the rest of us have a decision to make.

The case for Qi

Qi charger

If you've seen a wireless charger in the wild, maybe because your friend owns one or you were in a store recently and noticed them for sale, chances are what you saw was a Qi charger. The Qi standard has been around for a long time, and the group responsible for maintaining the standard have worked hard to make sure there are plenty of accessories for you to buy. If you're planning to outfit your home with Qi chargers, you'll find yourself spoiled for choice.

On a technical level, most Qi devices are capable of outputting 1 amp at 5 volts, which likely isn't as much power as the charging brick that came with your device can output. Some claim to be capable of delivering more power, but like any charger it's all about what your device is capable of receiving. If you're looking for the fastest way to charge, this isn't it. The real benefit to Qi charging is the ability to set your phone down on a pad, pillow, bedside table, and even car docks and know your device is getting power.

Thinking about Powermat

PMA Starbucks

If you're looking at two phones that offer different kinds of wireless charging, you're unlikely to be able to tell one from the other. The basic concepts are the same, as is the charge rate when you set your phone down on a platter to start charging. The biggest thing that sets Powermat apart is what happens on top of the wireless charging. The Powermat standard includes the ability to log things like how much time a user spends charging. As a result, Powermat is significantly more popular among businesses.

Starbucks, Delta Airlines, and GM are part of a steadily growing list of companies that support Powermat by baking the chargers into tables and trays for people to set their phones in. Along with an AT&T partnership that makes carrier stores the primary retail front for Powermat cases, chargers, and ring accessories for devices that lack proper support for the technology, Powermat as a standard has seen steady growth in public places.

Choosing between the two

Unless you're at a Starbucks for over an hour every day, or you're and AT&T customer being offered a nice bundle deal on accessories, chances are Qi charging is what you want. This decision ultimately comes down to the options available to the consumer, and how many devices already offer some form of support for the technology. The steady growth of Powermat in public places and commercial establishments might one day mean it makes more sense to go with that standard over Qi, or it might start pushing more companies toward supporting both standards, which is a win for consumers. Qi devices and accessories are everywhere, even in portable batteries you can take with you everywhere. Choice, particularly when it comes to accessories for your phone or tablet, is the clear winner here.

Russell Holly

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

  • Which current Android devices use Qi, and which use Powermat? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Qi Enabled Phones (pay attention to "integrated v needs a qi enabled back): http://www.qinside.biz/en/support/qi-enabled-phones-2015
  • Thank you! Posted via the Android Central App
  • The only thing that I ever seen try to use Powermat was ATT crap. Its definitely one thing that pissed me off about the flip case for the G3 they sold and 1520. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Loving my Qi in my Nexus 6, have a wireless charging dock on my nightstand and one in my car, and another on my GFs nightstand for her Nexus 7. The only time I ever plug in a cord to charge is when I travel.
  • My S6 takes both and my Nexus 6 takes Qi. The Samsung OEM I have is Qi also I believe. Our Starbucks must be waaaaaaay behind the times because I have never seen these chargers in ours, or am I just missing them?
  • I've never seen Powermat chargers at Starbucks either. I suspect those might be in their Seattle stores. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I've seen them in my store around the Orange County, CA area. Not active yet though :(
  • Active up in Silicon Valley
  • I had Qi first on my BlackBerry Z30, then my Droid Turbo, and now also a BlackBerry Classic. Never going back to wires (unless I need a turbo charging).
  • I'm just curious. Did you know that former BlackBerry CEO Thorstein Heins is the CEO of Powermat now?
  • I was gung-ho to use wireless charging when I got my AT&T LG G3, so I forked out $60 for the Quick Circle wireless charging case and $36 for a Powermat. Had to place the phone precisely in the right spot, or it wouldn't charge. It didn't seem to keep the phone topped off, so many mornings, the charge was 95% rather than 100%. Then AT&T pushed a software upgrade in February 2015, (D85020f), which killed wireless charging. I went back to the charging cord and find it easier and much more reliable. In early May, AT&T put out another software upgrade for the LG G3, D85021l, which fixed the wireless charging issue, but having used both, I'd never again bother with the expense, foibles and unreliability of wireless charging. My phone easily lasts all day on a charge, so plugging it in overnight is no big deal. Posted via the Android Central App
  • That's the problem with PowerMat. It has to be placed perfectly, Qi is much more forgiving in placement and seems to charge better through a case.
  • I agree. I have QI to and although the exact placement seems to be "more forgiving" it's really not because it could give you a blue light that it's lined up correctly but if it's not perfect the charging power goes down even more. I only use it during the day...I don't trust it at night.
  • I can't speak to Powermat needing to be placed perfectly vs Qi, as I have no experience with Powermat. I will say, however, that the G3 is (apparently, by my reading) particularly finicky about placement even with a Qi charger. I was already using a Qi-enabled alarm clock on my bedside table that my (T-Mobile) G3 did not like at all. Took me another 2 pads until I found one that works pretty well. The inability to trickle charge is apparently also a G3 problem, not a Powermat or Qi problem. My Galaxy S3 and Nexus 7 2013 trickle charge just fine, my G3 doesn't. Annoys me greatly.
  • I stick with Qi simply because that is what the phones I have used need. If I got a phone that required Powermat I would buy a powermat.
  • What I'm mentioning here might not apply to every person's usage scenario, phone or charger type but are general problems I've experienced using a nexus 5, and a Note 3 in combinations with various chargers, ROMs - stock and CM.
    First, after trying about 4 Qi chargers, I could never get past having to accurately place the phone in a pretty small sweet spot to get it to charge.
    On some chargers/phones it can easily slide out of position due to small vibrations or the slightest slope if the charger is slippery plastic.
    Next the problem is that typically it beeps, lights LED and the display turns on every time you put it on the charger. Then, unless you have a couple second auto screen off, you have to feel down to the power button and press it without disturbing the exact position of the phone. Depending on the phone and charger you may not be able to disable these notifications, which annoys me. (on CM you can set it to not turn on the screen when charging is attached though).
    Finally, there is a tendency to want to put the phone on the charger every time you go near one in my case typically the desk at work, getting up with your phone, sitting back down, because you probably don't have a removable battery and often have battery anxiety. I prefer to just have a removable battery handy and not worry about charging at all. Just keep the phone in your pocket and forget about it until its nearly dead. ON my nexus 5 this was not an option but my Note 3 it is, so I will always go for a removable battery phone.
  • That was something I found annoying when I first started using wireless charging, too. Most pads these days got rid of the beeps, and the phone settings for this can often be tweaked through settings and 3rd party utilities (especially if you are rooted). I took a small wireless charging pad and velcroed it to the back of a phone stand. Now my phone can charge standing up at my desk. I went the removable battery route, too. Had 2 or more for my last several phones, but found I was not using it as much any more. I haven't bought one for my latest phone, and have not really had a problem. I carry an external one, but only use it rarely. The other problem is that the big companies are moving away from removable batteries in their flagship phones. First HTC with the One, now Samsung with the S6. It might not be an option soon...
  • What, no live or even mention of the wireless charging for webOS on the Palm Pre?!? I loved my puck charger!, Posted via Android Central App
  • i believe that was a qi charger.
  • The touchstone charger was pre-Qi (see what I did there) It used a different inductive scheme. I loved it.
  • I endorse this comment. The Puck was angled (still have 4 of them) but the phone didn't slide off also it had a magnet to help you align properly. Although a few of them did have their issues.
  • I bought the official wireless charging back cover for my Note 4. I keep it on my phone because I like having the latest tech but I never really use my qi chargers. I just think it's smarter to swap batteries or use quick charge. My definition of "wireless charging" is walking into said place and my phone starts charging automatically. Posted via my Note 4...(AC App)
  • Some researchers (i forget which University, but it's been over the past week or so) have found a way to do that over wifi.
  • long live qi!
  • Qi. Only way to go. Period. I use my s6 with a choe upgraded qi charger through my defender case with no problems. I charge over night so who cares if it takes a little longer to charge.... I don't. It's simple, convenient, and I don't have to fumble with the damn plug, scratching the metal around it, or in worst case breaking the cable or charging port. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I thought there was a third standard. Unless it was discontinued...
  • Can't recall the name off of top of my head, but that standard merged with powermatt a while ago. Posted via the Android Central App
  • That was A4WP, later re-branded as Rezence. As the user before me has said, they merged with PMA. Hope this helps!
  • Choice is no clear winner in this case, like USB, there need to be one standard. Staying on Kitkat.
  • Choice is great...and I have HD-DVD and Beta-Max players to prove it.
  • I currently use QI with my S5 but I can tel you, I miss the days of my Palm Pre Touchstone. That had it all, perfect charging angle with a magnet to hold perfectly in place. Granted, the till charger is OK but man it can generate some heat.
  • I miss my Touchstone also for my Pre.
  • Qimat? Powerqi? Posted via the Android Central App
  • It has never been explained what advantage Powermat has over Qi. From the way it sounds it's offers a limited number of accessories, is offered in few devices, and is located primarily in retail establishments, but I have yet to see it in any Starbucks or anywhere else near me. This article mentions the charge rate or the Qi charger, but neglects to mention the charge rate for the PowerBot charging standard. Does it at least charge faster? If not, I'd say that Powermat should be not be recommended for purchase under any circumstances since it will most likely fail as a standard in the long term, since Qi chargers can just as easily be placed inside a chair armrest in a Starbucks. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It has never been explained what advantage Powermat has over Qi. From the way it sounds it's offers a limited number of accessories, is offered in few devices, and is located primarily in retail establishments, but I have yet to see it in any Starbucks or anywhere else near me. This article mentions the charge rate or the Qi charger, but neglects to mention the charge rate for the PowerBot charging standard. Does it at least charge faster? If not, I'd say that Powermat should be not be recommended for purchase under any circumstances since it will most likely fail as a standard in the long term, since Qi chargers can just as easily be placed inside a chair armrest in a Starbucks. Posted via the Android Central App
  • So am I to understand that there is literally no difference in speed, reliability, or precision between the standards? I have the S6 so I can pick whatever. I want to mount these or hide these in furniture so they are relatively unseen. Does one penetrate wood better/further than the other?
  • Ask IKEA, they have a new line of furniture with built-in Qi chargers. I really hope that I can find a way to enable Qi charging on my G4 Posted via the Android Central App
  • Qi>PowerMat. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me like Qi is global. Whereas for the most part PowerMat is just American. Wubba lubba dub dub!
  • I have a Droid Maxx and a Moto 360. I carry a Qi puck and a Newtrent battery to use when I have a long day away from outlets (as in a recent Disney trip). I saw lots of people hunting for outlets in WDW. It was nice when we stopped to eat to be able to top off the charges without worrying about AC outlets. To be fair, if Google had gone with Powernat, I would be using it Posted from my XT1080M
  • My Tabby (Nexus 7 2nd Gen) became sterile as far as wires go a long time ago. So then I discovered the Ghost 100... but it stopped working. =(
    Is one Qi charger comparable to another? I'm having a difficult time finding that information and when I call around to places it's like trying to ascertain nutrition knowledge from allopathic doctors. Anyone know the answer here? -I'd be so grateful.
  • Generally Qi is Qi, but I would look at different reviews for different chargers. I have a lot of success with Choe chargers, I use their "Stadium charger" (Search Amazon for CHOE Stadium Qi Wireless Charger and it'll be the first result) for my Nexus 6 and Nexus 7. I tend to gravitate towards multi-coil chargers as they tend to be the most forgiving/reliable ones I've seen (TYLT also makes some great multi-coil). I've also used the Google Nexus Qi charger (2nd version, the square not the orb) but I wouldn't recommend it - it does have a magnet for placement of the Nexus 5/7 but I could never get it to work through any case on any device (tested Nexus 7, Nexus 6, LG G2 VZW version, Note 3 w/ official back, Galaxy S5 w/ aftermarket Qi card, and Galaxy S3 w/ aftermarket Qi card).
  • I love Qi after using a Nexus 5 and 7 for almost a year. Upgrading to the G4 has made me aware that AT&T are not that interested in supporting wireless charging. I would probably tell most people that I gloat to about my G4 that AT&T doesn't have wireless charging. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It actually does. As far as I know however, AT&T swapped Qi wireless charging to PowerMat as an excuse to make buyers buy the surplus of PowerMat chargers that they never got to sell thanks to the rise of Qi. Of course, this is unconfirmed but the fact that many AT&T G4 owners are complaining about lack of wireless charging says otherwise Posted via the Android Central App
  • Next article: VHS or Betamax.
  • Blu-ray or HD-DVD
  • I use $5 ebay clone Qi chargers on my Nexus 7s and S4.
    Have them scattered around the house, ready and waiting. Posted via Android Central App
  • So if I have a phone in an Otterbox case, will it still charge if I install either of these? Otherwise both are useless when the phone is in a case, which is 99% of the time.
  • Yeah they charge through the case... I still have 2 Qi charges so the phones I get need to have it...even if its an option. Posted via Serenity
  • Good to know, thanks...will probably still need to use wires when charging in the car or when traveling and unable to find a socket for hours at a time.
  • my nexus 4 and 5 both rock Qi great and I can't imagine plugging my phone in at night anymore. I wouldn't invest in anything but Qi at this point except some 2.4A quick chargers for travel.
  • The new BlackBerry Priv on AT&T (or unlocked from Shop BlackBerry) supports Qi and Powermat. Nice to be spoiled by choice ;)
  • Nice article! :) This is also a cool one on this thematic: http://ow.ly/XV9k1
  • Lovely article and really helpful. I'm glad my device supports both (BlackBerry Priv) but I didn't know the difference between then and the fact that some devices only offer one way of charging.