The great thing about smartphones is that you can charge any of them over USB with whatever cable came in the box. But the last couple of years have seen a proliferation of new standards and technologies, meaning that not all chargers are created equal. So read on to find the gear that’ll power up your handset the fastest.
The vast majority of high-end Android smartphones nowadays support either Quick Charge 3.0 or 2.0. And though performance will vary a bit based on the size of the battery you’re charging, you can expect most Quick Charge 3.0 phones to charge from 0% to 80% in about 35 minutes, and somewhat slower from then on that as it dials back its voltage to avoid overheating.
Quick Charge 3.0 devices are backwards compatible with the slightly slower 2.0 spec, so at this point, we’d recommend future-proofing and buying 3.0 chargers, even if your current phone doesn’t support it. Quick Charge available in wall chargers, car chargers, battery packs, and more, and a few of the most popular models to date are listed below. Whatever you choose to buy though, just be sure that it’s certified by Qualcomm, which created the spec.
An increasing number of phones and laptops, most notably Apple’s new Macs, charge over the new USB-C spec. USB-C is a remarkable little port that can handle a ton of power, and heretofore unheard of amounts of data, all through a tiny, reversible connector.
While USB-C is technically capable of handling up to 100W of power throughput, enough to power a monitor, most mobile gadgets will only accept a fraction of that, though it varies device to device. For example, the Google Pixel smartphone can charge at up to 18W, the 12" Apple MacBook charges at 29W, and the 13" and 15" MacBook Pros charge at 61W and 87W respectively.
Currently, USB-C chargers vary wildly in their maximum power outputs. For example, Anker’s PowerCore+ battery pack maxes out at 5V/3A, or 15W (just multiply those two numbers to find the wattage). That’s almost enough to charge the Pixel at full speed, and it’ll trickle charge the MacBook. The soon-to-be-released PowerCore Speed though can output 30W over USB-C, which is perfect for high-draw devices.
Wall chargers generally fare better, though we haven’t seen any third party chargers as powerful as Apple’s MacBook Pro charging bricks. This Anker hub will output 29W though, or enough to charge the MacBook, or any smartphone released so far, at full speed.
You can also buy USB-C cables that plug into old-style USB-A outlets, though your charging speed will be capped at 12W, and poorly made cables can actually damage your equipment. If you go this route, we recommend buying Anker Powerline cables, which are durable, popular with our readers, and certified safe.
Things are quite a bit simpler in the wireless charging world, as pretty much everyone (including IKEA!) has settled on the Qi standard, though there are a few caveats.
In general, most phones with Qi support will only charge at 5W. That’s fine for refilling your phone’s battery overnight, but it’s not ideal for topping off in a hurry. That said, you can regularly find compatible charging pads for $8-$10, and if you spread them all around your home and workspace, it’s easy to give your phone a little bit of a jolt at multiple moments throughout the day.
The exceptions to the slow charging rule are modern Samsung Galaxy devices, which can accept up to 10W from compatible pads. These pads are also backwards compatible with non-fast charging phones as well.
iOttie even built a charging pad into a smartphone dash mount, which is kind of genius.
Some manufacturers build Qi charging desk stands, which prop your phone up at an angle, and usually include multiple charging coils, which should ensure that at least one of them aligns properly with your phone.
And if you look hard enough, you can even find USB battery packs with Qi coils built in. It’s a little gimmicky, but it does mean you don’t have to carry around a charging cable.
You may notice that I haven’t once mentioned the iPhone or iPad, and you probably know why: They don’t support Quick Charge, USB-C, or any form of wireless charging at all. But that doesn’t mean you should just use the included charger and call it a day. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Every iPhone since the iPhone 6 has supported 12W charging (5V/2.4A), but the included charging brick, well-built as it may be, only puts out 5W, meaning it’ll charge the phone much slower than it’s capable of. Luckily, more powerful chargers are extremely plentiful and cheap.
A couple of our favorites come from Aukey, and they stand out because of their size. This popular car charger puts out up to 2.4A simultaneously on both ports, and yet it’s so small that it’ll look like it’s built into your car.
This travel-friendly charging brick is barely larger than the one Apple includes with every iPhone, but it includes folding prongs, two ports, and 2.4A of total power (shared between the two ports, unfortunately).
Almost every iPad ships with a 12W power adapter, which is fine, as long as you realize that there are many other options available that will charge it just as quickly. The 12.9" iPad Pro though has a secret up its sleeve.
As 9to5mac points out, the largest iPad can utilize the 29W USB-C adapter that ships with the MacBook (or, presumably, the Anker equivalent), plus a USB-C to Lightning cable to charge nearly three times faster than usual. Unfortunately, no trustworthy third party manufacturers currently make USB-C to Lightning cables, so you’ll have to send a whopping $19 Cupertino’s way to take advantage.
What charging gear do you use with your favorite gadgets? Drop some links, photos, and descriptions in the comments below.
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