Wireless charging has long been one of technology’s Holy Grails. Being able to charge your devices without them having to be tethered to a power outlet would undoubtedly change the way we work, but seeing as we’re still quite some ways away from having electricity beamed to our smartphones and tablets, we’ll have to make do with the next best thing – charging plates.
Many phones support what they like to call wireless charging, but as the pedantic amongst us would point point out, that’s not strictly accurate. After all, that charging plate still needs a wire! Get beyond that hangup though, and wireless charging is actually pretty cool even in its current state. Putting your tablet or smartphone on a pad and having it start charging is impressive enough, but unfortunately Apple still isn’t up for it. Neither the iPad nor iPhone support wireless charging out of the box, and existing third-party solutions need big cases that come with the required technology built-in, which is far from ideal. Wireless charging should get out of the way, not make itself unmissable.
Enter the iQi wireless charging adapter…
Originally funded on Indiegogo and now available on general sale to anyone with the right amount of cash in their pocket, the iQi solution is an intriguing one because of one main advantage that it has over the competition; it’s almost invisible.
Designed for the iPhone 5, 5s and 5c thanks to its Lightning connector, the iQi solution consists of a connector and a cable. That cable is connected to a flat, barely-there charging area that folds around the back of the iPhone. Once there it can either be stuck with a spot of tape or ideally, covered with an iPhone case. Which is rather magical really, because even hidden behind a case like the official Apple leather solution, the charger still works. Impressive indeed.
Of course, the iQi charger is nothing without a companion charging plate, with two options available. One, a large rectangular affair looks fine on a desk, while the ‘puck’ alternative perhaps more suits a bed-side table or the more image-conscious amongst us. We’ll let you decide which you prefer, but they both work exactly the same regardless.
If you’re not familiar with how wireless charging works, then here’s a crash course: you plug the charging plate in, you put your phone on it. It starts charging. If that sounds overly simplistic, it isn’t. That’s about all there is to it. Or at least, there should be. Unfortunately, that’s not quite my experience with the iQi.
The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed reviews of this very product pop up online a week or two ago, with seemingly everyone and their dog having given it a try. Largely, they’ve been happy with it besides some hiccups here and there. The reason this particular review has taken longer to write is that I needed to live with it for a while. I needed to know how it behaved over time, with real-world use for a real person. Right now, I’m not using it. That might be a good indication of how it went.
The first issue I came across was actually a strange one that I probably can’t blame the iQi for. For some reason I had to restore my iPhone twice in order to make it detect the charger. It basically didn’t know it was plugged into the Lightning port using either iOS 7.1 beta 5, iOS 7.0.4/6 or the final iOS 7.1. Various restores later, it started working. I still don’t know why, but again, probably not the iQi’s fault.
What is the iQi’s fault though is that it needs to be very, very well seated. In fact, you’ll probably need to get a toothpick or similar and scrape all the fluff out of your Lightning port before you plug the iQi in, else it won’t work. It needs to go particularly deep into the port, and you’ll need to use a credit card to push it all the way in. Quite why it needs so much attention to make it work when none of my conventional charging cables do is something I’ve not worked out yet, but I suspect plenty will be caught out by it. I know I nearly was.
Once the iQi was finally detected by the iPhone, charging worked as you would expect. It’s possibly not quite as quick to charge as a normal wire, but it’s barely noticeable. It does get warm, though not warm enough to really be a concern. For the first charge, all was well and I was ready to declare the whole thing a success.
And then I plugged it in for a second time. Nothing. The charging plate beeped as it does every time it detects the iQi, so all was well there. The iPhone was back to refusing to recognize it’s plugged into the iQi. I took it out, I put it back in, and all was well. Juice flowed, lights lit up and things beeped. Charging was working again.
Until the next time I tried it. Rinse, repeat, grow bored.
The upshot of a couple of weeks of testing is that it appears the iQi needs removing and re-inserting after every full charge. It’s as if iOS doesn’t recognize that it’s been taken off charge, so doesn’t know it’s been put back on it. Whatever it is, it’s irritating, and just enough to put you off using the entire package, especially if you use a case because you’ll need to take your iPhone out in order to go through the whole process. Not great at all.
Having read plenty of reviews of this iQi, I’ve found a couple of mentions of similar behavior, so it seems I’m not alone. At this point I’m unsure whether others simply didn’t have the same issue, or whether they didn’t test it enough to find out. In its current state, for me at least, I won’t be using the iQi solution to charge my iPhone. If you can live with having to unplug the iQi and then replug it to make it charge though, then you’ll probably be golden.
It’s a shame that there are little niggling issues that detract from the iQi, because I really wanted to like it. As it stands, I must admit that the technology seems wonderful, and that it has the makings of being a great product. Iron out the issues and I’ll even buy one.
Until then though, it’ll have to go on the list of ideas that didn’t quite pay off.
The iQi iPhone charger is available from Amazon for $35.