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Upgrade your AirPods to wireless charging for as little as $20

You don't have to pay $80 to get Apple's wireless charging case. Here are three cheaper alternatives.

It's hard enough to reconcile buying Apple AirPods when there are so many less expensive alternatives. But to pay an extra $40 to get them with a wireless charging case? Or to pay another $79 to buy that case separately? No. All the no. Nah to the ah to the no, no, no. (Sorry, was just jamming to Meghan Trainor.)

That said, wireless charging is awesome. My phone does it. My watch does it. I'm spoiled by it and absolutely want it for my AirPods. So do I really have to give Apple even more cash?

wireless-airpods-charging-cases

Only one of these wireless-charging AirPods cases is made by Apple. The others are all priced $30 or less.

Rick Broida/CNET

I do not. I found three third-party alternatives, all of them priced between $20-$30. I've done only basic testing with them, so I can't speak to their long-term reliability. But if you've lost your case and need a replacement or you want to upgrade to sweet, sweet wireless charging, these are decidedly more affordable than anything Apple offers. 

Read more: The best AirPods accessories for 2020

Don't already own a Qi charging pad? There are zillions out there, but don't pay more than $10. For example, here's a Letscom Qi charging pad for $9. It will absolutely get the job done.

OK, on to the charging cases! If you've found one you like better, by all means shout it out in the comments. I'll update this list periodically.

Blandstrs

Though sold by a company called Blandstrs, this product has no branding to speak of. But it does have something not found on any other AirPods case: multiple charge-status LEDs. There are three of them right on the front; they light up red, blue or green depending on how much juice is left in the case. Yes, please! 

Other simple but smart design features: a flat bottom that allows the case to stand up and grooved sides that make it less slippery. It's only a hair taller than Apple's case, and therefore still perfectly pocket-friendly.

There's a 450-mAh battery inside, which promises up to five full AirPods recharges, according to the seller. (Apple doesn't specify the battery size inside the stock case, but a Wikipedia article puts it at just under 400 mAh.) Although it's the cheapest, this is my favorite of the three third-party AirPods charging cases.

TBGHz

If you want a case that's virtually indistinguishable from Apple's, look no further. Just about the only physical difference here is the pairing button, which is located on the front side instead of the rear. Nevertheless, it also houses a slightly larger 450-mAh battery, good for at least five AirPods charges.

Like Apple's case, this one is rounded and slippery and incapable of standing upright. Like the Blandstrs case, it arrives in an unbranded box. The only thing distinguishing it as "TBGHz A206" is the seller's product page. That's not a deal-breaker by any means, just something to note. To me this is proof positive that Apple's wireless charging case is grossly overpriced at $80.

NeotrixQI

Here's a different approach: a case for your existing case. Just slide the latter into the former and you're good to go. In theory, this should make for a more reliable option, as you don't have to worry about the individual AirPods not charging correctly; the original case will continue to take care of that. Instead, the only job of the "sleeve" is to supply power to your current case, which it does when you lay it on a Qi charging pad.

The downside, of course, is that it adds bulk: The A5-W is probably 50% larger than Apple's case. Thankfully, it still fits neatly into a pocket. It's just not quite as adorable. And, remember, this isn't a replacement; it has no battery of its own. It's just a case that adds wireless-charging capabilities to Apple's case.

It normally sells for $28, but at this writing it's on sale for $24.77.

More headphone recommendations

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This article was first published earlier this week.


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