Wireless charging, once a specialty feature, is now standard on many smartphones. For many years Apple was the most notable holdout, but with its adoption of the Qi charging standard in 2017, the technology is now commonplace.
Even though wireless charging is advantageous in many situations, it isn’t necessarily useful all the time. The choice between using a new wired or wireless charger depends on what’s important to you. In the simplest terms, wired charging is about speed, and wireless charging is about convenience.
Wired charging is best when you’re short on time
If you value getting the most charge to your phone as fast as possible, like those precious few minutes between when you get home from work and when you have to run back out the door, stick with a wired charger.
For the fastest speeds, you should upgrade from the free charger that came with your phone. If you’re using a relatively new smartphone — an iPhone 8 or newer, Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and later, or the Google Pixel line — you should use a USB-C PD fast charger paired with a USB-C cable. The rounded USB-C ports are fast replacing the USB-A ports you have likely relied on for years and they can offer a lot more power for faster charging. Exactly how fast will depend on the phone you’re using, but in our testing with the iPhone XR, the battery charged around two and half to three times faster with a USB-C PD charger compared with the one that comes in the box — it took the phone’s battery from empty to more than 50 percent in only half an hour. So to get juice in your phone before you run out the door, wired is the way to go.
The other benefit of a wired charger is being able to use your phone for sustained periods while it’s charging. In my living room, I love having a long cable with a wired charger because it allows me to scroll Twitter while I watch TV. As long as you’re close enough to an outlet, a wired charger means you can keep using your phone even at the end of a long day. That’s especially true with long cables; a 10-foot Lightning or Micro-USB cable should let you reach any outlet without having to be right next to the wall.
ImageCreditSarah MacReading/WirecutterWireless chargers are simpler to use but slower
Qi wireless chargers are slower than wired chargers, full stop.
The fastest chargers we’ve measured in our testing recharged a fully drained iPhone XR to only 50 percent battery capacity in an hour, around half as fast as a wired charger. But any wireless charger can still fully charge any phone overnight. That’s why I also use one on my bedside table. If I wake up in the middle of the night and want to check my phone (bad habit, I know), I don’t have to worry about waking up my partner when I’m fumbling to plug my phone back in.
Even though wireless chargers are slower, they offer a different kind of convenience: they’re dead simple to use. Just drop your phone onto the charging pad and it’ll start charging. I love having a wireless charger at my desk and in the kitchen, two places where I know I’ll pick up my phone to glance at it a lot. Instead of having to physically unplug the phone every single time, I can just pick it up and put it back when I’m done. As a bonus, stand-style Qi chargers let me see notifications or check recipes at a glance when I don’t have a free hand.
Ultimately, if I had to recommend a single charger, I’d still say go with a wired charger. It’s more versatile and almost always smaller, which makes it more convenient if you need to bring it along to work or school or when you’re traveling.
But it’s a luxury to have different charging options in different areas of the house. Think about how you use your phone in each spot — use wired where you want to keep your phone in hand or you need a faster charge, and choose wireless where you’ll get more out of the simplicity of dropping it and leaving it. Charging, both wired and wireless, is going to continue to get both faster and less expensive over the next few years, making it even easier to optimize your setup.
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A version of this article appears at Wirecutter.com.