Have you ever seen a Qi wireless charging coil? It’s tiny. A few pieces of copper, a tiny PCB, and that’s it. And without wanting to imply that the little things are inherently cheap – diamonds, processors and the $ 25 lost room key fee on your hotel bill come to mind – wireless charging is not not an expensive feature to add to a phone.
Talking is cheap, just like billing
Do you want proof? Apple added it to the second iteration of the iPhone SE at $ 400despite the fact that it is by far the cheapest phone in its range. Now the SE is another feature of its more expensive devices. And, perhaps more importantly, its partners can sell wireless charging accessories to an even larger group of customers.
There are a few scattered examples of cheaper phones with wireless charging. Blu, with its slightly more premium BOLD sub-brand, wears less than $ 300 on the N1. You can even add the functionality yourself to almost any phone, in a less elegant way, with a USB-Qi adapter at $ 15. When wireless charging shows up on relatively inexpensive accessories like the Galaxy Buds, you know the size is up.
Amazon is also making its way: after experimenting with certain wireless charging cases / represents the previous versions of the Kindle Fire range, new Fire HD 8 Plus includes standard Qi charge, the first tablet I have seen with this capability since the popular Nexus 7.
The Kindle Fire HD 8 Plus with wireless charging starts at $ 110. It may not be a fair measure: Amazon is using the Kindle line as leverage to sell tons of digital books and videos, not to mention a lot of advertising. But that illustrates the point I make: the now standard Qi wireless charging is not a feature that should be limited to the upper echelons of smartphone hardware.
Someone please tell Google, Samsung, LG, OnePlus, Motorola and just about everyone. We will focus on the largest of these offenders.
First class passengers only
After launching wireless charging in the Nexus series, the Pixel range waited for its third expensive iteration to support wireless charging. But when the cheaper and much more popular Pixel 3a arrived, it was left out, despite a plastic case that supports the technology. Why? Presumably, as one of the few points of differentiation between this $ 400 phone and the upgraded versions. The Pixel 4 has a built-in wireless charge, but based on the first leaks, it seems that Qi is also MIA on the cheaper Pixel 4a.
Samsung takes the same shot. All of its Galaxy S series phones have supported wireless charging for years, including some proprietary fast charging technologies. But if you go even a model down, below $ 700 for the standard Galaxy S20, wireless charging disappears. Next to something like the iPhone SE, the Galaxy A series seems more economical and less desirable.
But I will keep a special disregard for OnePlus. Beside the undeniable critical success of the OnePlus 8 Pro, the simple Jane OnePlus 8 seems quite expensive, especially compared to the Pixel, Galaxy and iPhone models with which it is directly in competition. Introducing the first ever $ 900 OnePlus wireless charging phone, leaving functionality out of the $ 700 demotion, it smacks of a deliberate exclusion rather than a necessity of conception. The 8 didn’t even need the sophisticated 30-watt wireless charging that OnePlus was so keen to demonstrate – it just needed the same functionality that all other companies provide.
The load changes
I hate to say it, but thanks Apple. Thank you Amazon. Thank you for proving that wireless charging is not something that should be limited to the first class section of the smartphone plane. That we, the economy class peasants, with a budget that keeps our phone purchases below four digits, can also have this convenience.
I would bet that from the end of this year or the beginning of next year, Qi wireless charging will join features such as USB-C, NFC ports and edge-to-edge displays which are thankfully standard at almost all prices. I could dare to hope to see a return to tablets supporting the functionality, their larger batteries better served by chargers that can pump more watts wirelessly. Here is hope.