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    Wireless charging - supplement, but don't replace...


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    As the number of Qi enabled devices in my collection increases (Nexus 4, Nexus 7 2013, Galaxy S4), i've been trying out wireless charging. It's cool... but with caveats.

    I must confess that when I first got the Nexus 4, I dabbled a little with Qi chargers, but was largely underwhelmed. The main reason for this was that charging pad availability was very limited, they were very expensive and almost every one I tried had something that made me not want to use it (more often than not it was a HUGE FLASHING LED). Bear in mind also that up until recently it has been impossible to get the official LG Charging Orb here.

    Just recently my interest was piqued again, first by the realisation that the aforementioned orb is now obtainable to buy in the UK, secondly by the release of the new Nexus 7 with wireless charging and finally because Qi gear is finally getting cheaper. I picked up a S4 wireless charging adaptor and a mini puck charger for just over £30.

    The first piece of hardware for my new era of wireless was the LG Wireless Charger WCP-405, better known as the 'Nexus Charging Orb'. The LG version, predictably, is LG branded rather than Nexus branded and sells for £59.99 at MobileFun. Certainly the premium option, but then you get what you pay for...

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    The Orb is seriously solid. It, of course, looks and feels a lot like the Nexus Q, right down to the metal surround of the USB port. It has a rubber base so it doesn't slide around, is angled for resting your device on with a good viewing angle and has the 'sticky grip' rubber coating often used in car holders. This ensures your device doesn't fall off while it's charging. It's a seriously nice bit of kit, with easy device placement and reliable charging. Bonus: no flashing LEDs!

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    To supplement my 'main' wireless charger - the Orb - I also picked up a cheap 'puck style' charger from Amazon for £25. The charger is matte plastic on top with a shiny plastic edge and is also rubberised on the bottom but it does include a blue LED that flashes when a device is charging. Thankfully it's not too bright (although it might be annoying in a darkened room at night). Unlike the Orb, no mains adaptor is included in the box - it's intended to be hooked up to your existing charger. The top of the charger has nothing to offer any grip to your device, so if you're using a phone / tablet with a smooth back, it might slide off quite easily.

    So they are my chargers... what are they like in use?

    They both work with all 3 of my devices devices. The LG charger is a nicer experience overall (as you'd expect given the price) but the cheap little puck isn't bad either. But there's one thing I hadn't really expected when I bought them.. and that is that charging can be rather slow!

    Both chargers are rated at the same 1A output but in reality it seems that your device will charge at about the same speed as if it were connected to a 0.7A charger which, given the size of the batteries in devices nowadays, is a little lethargic.

    It's this that has made me realise that wireless chargers are designed to be used differently.

    When I use a wall charger i'll generally (with one exception, see below) have it in a special place out of the way (bedroom side, office side) and leave my device alone while it charges. Which is fine, because i'm either asleep or not planning to leave it for very long. Wireless charging is different in that you are best off having the wireless charger as an additional charger in different places. Next to the sofa. On your desk at work. Anywhere where you'll be putting the device down anyway and you might want to take advantage of some extra juice.

    The other aspect of wireless charging that I didn't really anticipate is that you typically won't be able to use the device while it's on the charger, because if you pick it up it'll stop charging. Obviously. For me this made it a non-starter for next to the bed, as I often want to use my phone before I go to sleep and it's generally gasping for power at that point - having a long cable I can plug in makes more sense.

    One final point to note is that when wireless charging, devices seem to get quite hot! It figures, with those coils in there I guess...

    So, would I recommend picking up a wireless charger?

    Definitely - but as the title says, expect it to supplement, not replace your existing setup. If you are willing to stump up the cost of the LG charger then there's no question it's the best option all round, but that little puck isn't bad either.


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    Posted

    Thinks I'm going to pick something up for my Nexus 7 as its more likely the device that could sit there for a few days unused and draining.

    Used to hate that on the original N7, seemed to eat battery even asleep.

    I'm hearing better reports on the 2013 model but I'd still prefer it to be 100% everytime I picked it up off the shelf.

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    Posted

    I've got 2 as well, find one at the office really useful to set your phone on to instead of laying it on the desk so you can see it if anything happens, quickly grab and check the email text or whatever and set it back down. I've noticed with my cheaper one especially that placement is key. If placed right my phone charges faster and status a lot cooler than if placed further up or down the pad. Luckily my cheap one is small so finding the sweet spot is a bit easier, but it's not just the chuck your phone on you'd expect. Once you get your head round it being a top up as you go it's good, if you can't adjust from the fully charge at night and use all day approach I don't think it's worth it, even more so if you need to recharge quickly

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    Posted

    Thinks I'm going to pick something up for my Nexus 7 as its more likely the device that could sit there for a few days unused and draining.

    Used to hate that on the original N7, seemed to eat battery even asleep.

    I'm hearing better reports on the 2013 model but I'd still prefer it to be 100% everytime I picked it up off the shelf.

    Be careful with this. Quite a few qi chargers seem to like not resuming charge if you're device hits 100% then drops back down.

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    Posted

    Looks very early in the life of QI chargers. No real stand out devices, scant reviews and high cost.

    When you do find a cheaper unit there appears to be nothing to tell you if its actually any good.

    All very confusing.

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    Posted (edited)

    Very valid points - it is a bit of a pain not being able to use devices comfortably while charging. Lots of upsides though. Fwiw, the puck chargers are available for about £14 at Dealextreme http://dx.com/p/metrans-mwt03-super-mini-micro-usb-wireless-charger-transmitter-for-nokia-samsung-more-black-226778 Crazy bargain!

    The manufacturer recommends a 2A power pack to provide the charge - seems to charge a bit faster with that, though I've not checked the current coming from it so can't be confident it's made any difference. However a 2A charger seems to make it less likely that your phone will charge to 100% then slowly discharge.

    A little bit of insulation tape over the Led works wonders in keeping the room dark over night! Similarly deleting /system/media/audio/ui/WirelessChargingStarted.ogg gets rid of the annoying bleep as you put your phone on the charger.

    A weird quirk of wireless charging (I think only) with android 4.3 is that you often get a kernel wakelock that saps a bit of juice (at least you do on the nexus 4).

    That one James Norton linked to (with a moving coil) looks fab, though it may be a bit noisy. My metrans charger can be a little bit fussy about positioning (though it's fine once you get used to the sweet spot).

    Edited by The Soup Thief
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    Posted

    £14 for the puck isn't too bad but I use a USB extension or good old fashioned power cable to stretch that little farther at about a 1/4 the price. I'd still think about one if a little cheaper. As for the light issue, similar to TST, tape is a good thing to use. The full beam dashboard light on my van has a blue light that blinds you at night so I used a little square of opaque sticky back tape to mute it.

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    Posted (edited)

    It's dead handy just to chuck the phone on it when you get home - I have the puck blu-tacked in place beside the edge of my bedside cabinet. When the phone's up against the edge of the cabinet it's lined up in the sweet spot for charging. Easy.

    No need to fanny about with plugging in wires or getting the connector the right way up. Well worth the few quid it set me back if only to keep MrsTheSoupThief from complaining so much about the rat's nest of wires at my side of the bed.

    Edited by The Soup Thief
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    Posted

    Tempted to give one of those £14 ones a try @TheSoupThief. So all i'd need to buy is a 3 pin plug USB charger? Does it have to 1A or 2A? Any recommendation? Power cables seems to be a minefield too..... some real horror stories.

    I suppose I could use the one from my N7? I think thats rated at 1.3?

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    Posted

    I got a Nokia DT-900 from ebay for under £20, brand new and delivered.

    It works flawlessly with the 2013 Nexus 7 but with my Nexus 4 if you leave it in day dream mode it sometimes ghost dials, put it too sleep completely and it works fine.

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