Fast vs. standard? Pad or stand? These the best wireless chargers for iPhones or Androids

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Updated Thu August 29, 2019

Wireless charging is one of the biggest changes in tech recently, and there are many names in the game, from Apple to Samsung, LG, Motorola and even Google. And in most cases, you can get the same charging speeds that you'd normally achieve with a cord.

Like power bricks and cords, there are many different wireless charging pads in all shapes and sizes, from pads to stands and even two-in-ones, or wireless chargers that are hidden in photo frames. This handy guide will make your buying decision much less daunting -- even fun!

Qi Wireless is the standard that can make the process easier. This is technology that powers the wireless charging experience and has near universal adoption across iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixel. Unfortunately, devices like the Apple Watch and other smartwatches likely use proprietary chargers.

And yes, Apple's AirPower -- the charging mat it promised in 2017 that would power an iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods -- is still missing.

What to look for in a wireless charger

There's a huge selection of chargers. In the time since Apple began to include wireless charging, accessory manufacturers have released a ton of them. It's a competitive market, with Mophie, Belkin, Anker, Nomad, Nimble, Twelve South, Samsung and many others, each wanting you to choose its product.

Circular pads are the rage, but wireless chargers also come in many other formats. Materials range from plastic to leather and even metal. Luckily, none of these surfaces should heat up too much, thanks to the wireless charging coil technology. Manufacturers spend a chunk of time making sure performance is up to par, along with the user experience. You certainly don't want a wireless charger that's too hot to use.

Charging speed matters

Like a typical charging brick and cable, a wireless charger can only charge as fast as the amount of power it receives. Normal charging versus fast charging can make a significant difference, but you need to be precise when choosing your model. You'll need to make sure the included power brick can deliver enough watts for fast charging.

For instance, Apple includes a 5-watt charger with every iPhone, which is pretty slow. On the other hand, Samsung includes a fast charging brick in the box with most of its smartphones. Either of these can likely charge your phone fully overnight, but there are ways to get a faster, easier charge without the hassle of plugging in the cable. You'll need to upgrade to an Apple 12-watt charger ($13.99; amazon.com) for an iPhone, or a third-party solution, such as the Anker Elite Dual Port USB charger ($13.99; amazon.com), to deliver enough power for either an iPhone or an Android device.

If you're looking at a fast-charging or 10-watt wireless charger, it likely will come with a brick that can power that fast speed. But sadly, not all wireless chargers include a brick. And while a brick might seem unnecessary for a wireless charger, it's a critical piece of the equation to deliver enough power for fast charging -- so if the charger doesn't come with one, you'll need to buy that separately.

Here are our top picks

Anker PowerWave Wireless Charging Pad with Quick Charge Wall Adapter ($45.99; amazon.com)

What if you could get a wireless charging pad and a fast wall adapter for the price of a high-end charging pad? Well, Anker is bundling a wireless charging pad with a Quick Charge wall adapter and 6-foot cable. That adapter can allow the PowerWave Wireless Charging Pad to push out a maximum of 10 watts, which is enough to fast charge an iPhone, Google Pixel or Samsung Galaxy. The PowerWave also includes an internal cooling fan and an anti-slip surface. It's really a great bundle that gives you everything you need to quickly charge your devices.

Anker 10-Watt Wireless Charging Stand ($19.99; amazon.com)

This charging stand packs a punch and affordability at just $19.99, and offers speeds up to 10 watts. It's a plastic stand that works with iPhones and any phones that meet the Qi wireless charging standard of at least 7.5 watts. You can place your phone either horizontally or vertically, and it works with most cases. The one downside is it doesn't include a power brick.

Satechi Type-C Fast Wireless Charger ($44.99; amazon.com)

You might not know of Satechi, but it's a fairly popular accessory maker that specials in hubs, dongles, and chargers for phones, tablets and even computers. Its latest wireless charger focuses on speed, through technology with the charging coils and the port it opts for. By using USB Type-C, a faster and newer I/O port, Satechi can up the wattage from 5 to 10 watts. This will allow for fast charging the latest iPhones, Samsung Galaxys and Google Pixels. Satechi also opted for a slim circular pad design and it has an LED indicator built in. At $44.99, it's not the cheapest, but it's fast and sleek-looking solution.

Mophie Charge Stream Desk Stand ($59.99; amazon.com)

This made-for-iPhone stand has a sturdy metal base with a sliding charging pad. You can adjust the height, making it perfect for those with an XS or XS Max. A charging cable and power brick are included in the box. It can charge up to 10 watts out of the box.

Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charging Dock for iPhone + Apple Watch + USB-A Port ($139.99; amazon.com)

Those looking for an all-in-one solution for charging an iPhone, Apple Watch and another device will be very pleased with the Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charging Dock. It will wirelessly charge your iPhone and Apple Watch in a standup format, making it easy to access them. And it has a USB-A port on the back so you can charge almost any other device. It will charge the iPhone at a fast 7.5 watts and the Apple Watch at 5 watts. The entire dock is powered by one cable and power adapter.

Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charging Pad ($53.99; amazon.com)

This refreshed take on the original circular wireless charging pad has a sleeker design and faster charging. Belkin includes a 5-foot cable and a power brick that delivers up to 10 watts. Like the Anker, this can deliver a charge through most cases. Plus, Belkin offers it in black, white or pink.

Twelve South PowerPic ($69.99; amazon.com)

If you want to be super sly or you're looking for a stylish way to prop your phone on a nightstand or table, the PowerPic from Twelve South might be perfect for you. It looks like a typical 5-by-7 photo frame, but it packs a 10-watt wireless charger behind the photo. You can swap the picture out and have it match your phone's lock screen.

Mophie Charge Stream PowerStation Wireless (6,040mAh — $60.78; amazon.com) (10,000mAh — $99.95; amazon.com)

If you want a wireless charger that doubles as a portable battery pack, look no further than the Charge Stream PowerStation Wireless from Mophie. It packs a USB-A and a USB-C port with either a 6,040mAh or a 10,000mAh battery. The cool factor is turned up to 10 with a Qi-enabled front side that lets you lay your phone down to charge it.

Nomad Wireless Charging Base Station Hub Edition ($99.95; amazon.com)

This sleek leather charging pad allows you to wirelessly power two devices, plus plug in two additional devices through USB-A and USB-C ports. It's a full four-in-one, since it also has a dedicated power port on the back. Like the Nimble pad, Nomad uses recycled leather for an eco-friendly design. Whether you charge hardwired or wirelessly, all of these outputs meet the fast-charging standard.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed prices at the time of publication.