Review: Ikea wireless-charging furniture is stylish and functional but not without issues

The charging pads can leave your mobile devices rather warm over time

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Last spring, Ikea announced it would be selling a wireless-charging collection of furniture with built-in Qi-enabled wireless chargers for compatible mobile phones and adapter phone cases.

Ikea's wireless charging furniture is now entering stores in the U.S. and includes bedside tables, floor and table lamps and desks, along with a DIY kit that lets users embed wireless chargers into furniture of their choice.

Along with furniture, the store is also stocking wireless-charging pads (both single chargers and triple chargers) and six smartphone wireless-charging adapter cases, which are needed since most smartphones don't natively support wireless charging. And, as there are three competing wireless-charging standards, most smartphones won't likely support native wireless charging anytime soon. Ikea's smartphone wireless-charging adapter cases are compatible with the Apple iPhone models 4, 5, 5S and 6, (but not the 6 Plus), and the Android-based Samsung Galaxy (S3, S4 and S5) only.

The Ikea charging cases range in price from $15 to $25. I chose one to test with my iPhone 6.

As shipping a side table would have been bulky, Ikea agreed to loan me the Riggad desktop lamp ($80) with built-in wireless charger, the Nordmarke triple charging pad ($65) and the Vitahult iPhone 6 wireless-charging adapter case ($25) to review.

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Some of Ikea's wireless charging collection, which range in price from $9.99 to $119.00.

Besides the triple charging pad, you can also buy a single charging pad for $28.

Like all Ikea products, the lamp, pad and charger were solidly constructed and the designs were well thought out.

The Ikea wireless-charging furniture is attractive, coming in bright white on white or white on a natural wood base. The triple charging pad was also made of wood with a natural finish. A white oblong charging surface has three crosses or "Xs," if you like, marking the charging areas.

The single charger on the LED lamp's base similarly had an "X" to mark the center of the charging pad. When wirelessly connected, the charging pad illuminates. This is very handy for ensuring the phone is positioned correctly because the Qi standard allows for little wiggle room in its magnetic connection.

Apart from the wireless-charging insert, I liked the LED lamp; it had a swivel top and base and could be positioned any way I liked. Most importantly, its narrow design takes up little desktop space. The lamp and charging pad also have a USB 2.0 port, so you can charge other mobile devices that don't have wireless power capability.

I found that the lamp and pad charged my iPhone just as quickly as if I'd plugged it into an Apple-spec Lightning connector cable.

While wireless charging removes two simple steps -- plugging and unplugging your mobile device -- it can be quite useful. For example, my Apple Lightning plug has recently started acting up and needs to be wiggled to make an electrical connection to my iPhone 6. With wireless charging, there's no plug, so there's no worry about a plug wearing out.

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Ikea's Vitahult iPhone 6 wireless charging adapter case ($25).

But not everything was rosey with the wireless charger. For one, my phone got pretty warm over extended periods of time on the charger. That was concerning.

William Stofega, mobile phone program director for research firm IDC, said the heat generated during wireless charging is not cause for concern and is fairly normal even with a wired charger.

"The charging process is not 100% efficient, and due to conductor resistance, some of the heat is generated by electron flow resistance and is converted to heat. At the same time, some of the heat is also generated by the phone's two power transistors during the charging process," he said.

The Ikea smartphone charging case

 I was impressed with Ikea's wireless-charging phone case. It's minimal in its design and attractive. Unfortunately, it only come in white. But, if function trumps style in your book, the lack of colors shouldn't concern you.

Best of all, the price is right. My iPhone 6 wireless-charging adapter case cost just $25, which is about average for a smartphone case. Sure, you can pick up a plain case for under $10, but many of the fancier, non-charging cases go for as much as $55.

As is typical of Ikea products, whoever designed the company's Vitahult wireless-charging cover for the iPhone 6 thought everything through. The case has a good feel, with a slightly non-slip surface. The case covers the iPhone's function buttons with flexible material, and my phone stayed snugly inside while charging over the two weeks that I used the case.

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Ikea's line of wireless chargers range from DIY kits to single chargers and triple chargers.

The last wireless smartphone charging technology I reviewed -- the Aircharge Wireless Charging Case -- worked well, but had some fatal flaws: the iPhone 6 charging case felt cheap, and worse, it covered up the Lightning charging/data port on my phone. That meant the only way I could charge the phone with the cover on was via a wireless pad.

Ikea's charging case has a similar, though lesser, flaw. The case connects to the  iPhone with a Lightning plug, but then the case itself uses a mini-USB 2.0 port if you want to hardwire it. I honestly don't know why the wireless charging case's design would not incorporate a Lightning port, but you should be aware of this before you buy one.

While I still struggle with wireless charging in that it offers limited convenience, overall, I liked Ikea's products. They were well made and stylish. If I could change one thing, it would be that darned mini-USB port on the wireless-charging phone case. Otherwise, I can recommend these products for those seeking a bit more convenience in their mobile charging experience.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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