LOS ANGELES — For the first time, consumers will be able to charge their new iPhones wirelessly, via a charging mat that juices their glass-backed iPhone 8 and 8 Plus units.
But critics say wireless charging on the new iPhones is slow. And the mats for consumers, now made by Belkin and Mophie and previously only available for Android phones such as Samsung and LG, represent another dongle to drag around.
A better option for iPhone users suffering from battery pangs may be a battery case, a proven technology that doubles usage of your device.
Before we dive in, know that many battery cases are available for previous iPhones. But there might be an issue for the new one, which has a height difference of 0.1 inch. If you're buying a new iPhone and want a battery case, you should try it before you leave the store to make sure it fits. Battery cases made specifically for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have yet to be released.
Smart battery packs have been around for a few years and are dominated by the companies Mophie, Ankar and Apple itself. They sell for as little as $25-$30 for older iPhones, to around $80 to $100 for cases that fit the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.
They're not perfect. On the plus side, you leave the house with twice as much charge as you would have without them. The downside: they add bulk to an already large phone, and you'll need to charge the case and the phone before you go to sleep every night.
Once charged, when you're ready to go out and about, you insert the phone into the Lightning charging port on the case itself. Then, when the device starts to lower power, the case kicks in with the extra juice.
Music fans might have an issue plugging in their headphones. Since Apple ditched the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, many users have opted for headphones that plug into the Lightning port on the iPhone. But the cases use the Lightning to charge up. So if it's music you're after, you'll need bluetooth headphones, or just listen on the iPhone speaker.
Mophie's Juice Pack Air ($99.95) looks to have the best of both worlds. It's both a battery case promising 33 more hours of power for the iPhone 7 Plus, and it also can be be used on charging pads for wireless charging.
Mophie and Belkin charging pads cost $59.99. Next year, Apple will release its own wireless charging mat, called AirPower, for an undisclosed price.
A quick word about the so-called wireless charging. It’s not one where you hold your phone in the air and watch as it miraculously revives itself. Instead it uses something called the Qi wireless standard, which has been in use by Samsung for its Galaxy phones for the past several years.
In airports, Starbucks and a handful of universities that have these charging pads, phone owners can just slap their phone down on the pads, eliminating the need to hunt for elusive outlets. Made by Powermat, the mats have only worked with certain phones, most notably recent Samsung Galaxy models.
They could work with iPhones with the purchase of a $15 dongle that attached from the phone to the mat. A new software update makes the new iPhones compatible with the Powermat, without the dongle.
Still, while the current wireless charging is poised to be more convenient, it takes more time to complete the task. Powermat says the average time to charge a phone with its technology is around 2 hours.
My solution to running out of power is that I bring a backpack and accessories with me everywhere I go. And in that backpack is both a USB Lightning cable, to charge up anywhere, and the greatest little doodad from Belkin, a $34.95 MixIt Lightning to USB Clip. It fits on your keychain, and gives you both a USB and Lightning connection, so if you’re out and about, you can always plug in somewhere—and it’s a lot teenier than a wireless charging pad.
What’s your favorite charging accessory?
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