Adding Qi charging to a smartphone

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The first smartphone that featured Qi charging out of the box was the Nokia Lumia 920, back in 2012, and ever since wireless charging has been a staple that most of us have required before considering a phone purchase. Making it ironic that the flagships that now support it have dropped other 'staples', including 3.5mm audio and microSD expansion, while lower end and mid-rangers have the latter but not Qi. But wait, there's an easy way to add Qi to any smartphone and I thought a reminder was in order...

You see, at heart, Qi charging is just about a thin coil that accepts electromagnetically induced current and passes it to a battery charging system. So why not have a standalone Qi coil with a ribbon cable and 'flying' Type C connector, for plugging into a phone's bottom port? Why not indeed? It sounds cumbersome, but once you factor in most phones being better off with a TPU case of some kind then it all makes sense. The case keeps the coil in place and there's nothing to flap about. And if you need to plug something else in via Type C then it's easy to peel off the case, hook the jack out and bypass it.

All of this will make sense if I do a short video. Note that I'm using a solid coloured (black) case, with the end result that you can't see the Qi coil and to all intents and purposes the tech has just been added, almost invisibly, to a smartphone that didn't have it out of the box.

In this case I'm working with the Google Pixel 4a 5G, which is of note since it has the pure Google software and experience, along with four or five years of updates, plus it has a good processor, 6GB RAM, decent screen, capacitive fingerprint scanner (so much faster than optical or ultrasonic), decent stereo speakers, and a 3.5mm audio jack. In short, it's just about perfect as a 2021 smartphone for most people, apart from the lack of Qi charging. Which is... what I'm fixing here.

If this coil looks a bit battered then note that it has been in and out of over 20 phones over the last two years, as part of my experiments! A brand new coil would be even flatter.

This standard £10 Qi coil with flying Type C connector on Amazon UK is perfect, I contend. There are a few other brands, but this one is cheap, allows 1A wireless charging (others often max out at 0.5A), and I've tested it with numerous phones to good effect. It sits nicely - and now invisibly - in this black £9 Spigen Liquid Air case, with no noticeable bulge in the back, as shown in the video above.

The only downside is that, inevitably, the Type C port is filled in most of the time. If you're someone who plugs their phone into a desktop for file transfer most days then the hassle of taking the bottom of the case off enough to extract the coil and its connector will be too much, I suspect. Likewise if you're not sure that 1A Qi charging will be sufficient for your lifestyle and want to plug into a high current wired charger multiple times a week. In such cases, get a phone with Qi built-in, if you're desperate for this as well.

But if you're mainly happy with wireless (Bluetooth/Wifi/Cloud) transfers then this might be a very viable solution for you too. I keep the coil in my Pixel 4a 5G and aside from file transfers after a camera phone test I never need to unplug it or take it out. 

Comments welcome on this low-tech approach. The coil should work with just about any phone that takes Type C charging* and, indeed, with any case.

* Note that there's also a version of the same coil for Apple's Lightning port, should you have an older iPhone 5/5s/6/6s/7/SE. In fact, I've also just noticed that there's a 2A version for Type C too now. Ordered!