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The pros and cons of ditching cables



One of the great advancements of the 21st century is the move to rechargeable lithium ion batteries. But can we do better? 

Wireless charging pads have been around for a few years now and they’re certainly appealing. Charging cables can be cumbersome, and there’s an inherent elegance to placing a phone onto a little pad and letting it charge without putting any real effort into it.

That said, there are benefits and drawbacks to moving to a wireless charging lifestyle. You might clean up your cord clutter, but you’ll miss out on some important advantages of wired charging, too. Thankfully, we’re here to help with a few reasons why you should and shouldn’t jump on the wireless charger bandwagon.

A reason you should: Charging multiple devices at once

Samsung's Charger Duo Pad can handle multiple products at once.

Samsung’s Charger Duo Pad can handle multiple products at once.

Image: Joan Cros/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Aside from the fact that it looks cool (we’ll discuss that in depth later), the most obvious benefit to wireless charging is that many charging pads can handle multiple devices at once. You just set a couple of phones, a phone and smartwatch, or any other combination you can think of down on the pad, and let the charger do the rest.

Power outlets are limited in quantity, especially if you live in a small apartment. With a decently sized charging pad like this one from IBIS, you can preserve precious plugs for other uses. 

There isn’t much else to say, honestly. Plopping down two or three things onto a single charging pad will clean up your cable mess and keep your battery levels healthy. In addition, wireless charging is largely brand-agnostic; most major brands use the same wireless standard known as Qi, so both Apple and Android phones should charge just fine on the same pad.

A reason you shouldn’t: Mobility and speed are lacking

Conversely, there’s a pretty obvious problem with wireless charging that hasn’t entirely been solved yet. It’s really, really hard to effectively use a device while it’s charging. 

Sure, you can fiddle with a smartphone while it’s lying flat on a charging mat, but phones are meant to be held in your hands. This doesn’t exactly offer the best user experience. Using a wireless charger means essentially giving up use of your phone until it’s done charging. 

There are certainly benefits to that, as we probably shouldn’t look at screens as much as we do. Still, if you charge your phone with the default wired option, using it is as easy as picking it up and doing what you would normally do. 

OtterBox's new OtterSpot wireless charging solution adds more mobility to something that's normally stationary.

OtterBox’s new OtterSpot wireless charging solution adds more mobility to something that’s normally stationary.

The lack of mobility also makes wireless chargers a less-than-ideal option sometimes. Small wired chargers are easy to slip into your bag. A big pad isn’t as easy to bring with you. 

Thankfully, some companies are working on more mobile solutions. OtterBox recently announced a new wireless charger that consists of multiple pads that you stack on top of one another to charge them all at the same time. You can just yank one pad off the stack and take it with you, negating the need for cables and power outlets.

Also, if you’re impatient, wireless charging is generally less efficient. In other words, your device will charge more slowly on a wireless pad than it will if you just plug it in directly. That might not be a problem depending on the circumstances, but sometimes you need a quick charge. Wireless pads aren’t always up to the task.

A reason you should: Security matters

Unfortunately, there are malicious folks out there who want to ruin your day using the technology you hold dear. Charging cables aren’t exempt from this.

While it may not be the most likely thing in the world, it’s still possible for charging cables to be compromised. Earlier this year, a hacker demonstrated that something as innocuous as a Lightning cable can be used for nefarious purposes. 

As long as you only ever use your own personal charging cable, you’ll probably be alright. However, people share charging cables all the time. It’s a fact of life that unfortunately increases the risk of exposing your device to elements it shouldn’t be around in the first place. There aren’t as many of these risks with wireless charging.

A reason you shouldn’t: The extra cost

Sadly, we all need money to live, and some people can’t afford something as luxurious as a really good wireless charger. Charging cables are cheap and already come with most devices, so why bother buying something extra if it won’t change your life?

Native Union makes nice wireless chargers, but they cost a pretty penny.

Native Union makes nice wireless chargers, but they cost a pretty penny.

Image: zlata ivleva/mashable

There are plenty of totally fine wireless chargers for less than $50, but they’re still an extra cost on top of a device’s entry price. In addition, some wireless chargers can become almost as expensive as the devices themselves. Native Union’s BLOCK charger, which I reviewed earlier this year, is one such charging pad.

A price tag of $200 is pretty exorbitant for something that doesn’t even charge a phone as quickly as the cable that came packaged with the phone. 

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