Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Fast chargers: what to consider to choose the right model for Android phones

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Now that the USB Type-C port has become a standard in the Android mobile phone ecosystem , a new element has arrived to complicate everything: the intricate landscape of fast charging systems .

Currently , this is almost as  different technology as there are manufacturers , and despite the existence of certifications such as Qualcomm or the USB Implementers Forum, users face the difficulty of finding compatible chargers that charge their smartphone at the highest possible speed.

Although iPhone cell phones go separately and use the Lightning port -despite the opposition of the European Parliament, which seeks to harmonize chargers-, Android mobiles use mini USB or USB Type C ports, and the latter are usually the only ones with charging quick.

Fast charging allows the batteries of electronic devices such as mobile phones, with increasing capacity and reaching 5,000 or 6,000 mAh in some cases, to take minutes to charge and not hours.

With the goal of providing a common framework for charging systems, the USB Implementers Forum, the association that promotes the adoption and advancement of the USB standard, has awarded its USB Power Delivery certifications since 2012.

Its latest standard, USB Power Delivery 3.0, dates from 2018 and aims to “increase reuse by allowing chargers to be shared with other USB Type-C devices, as well as reduce electronic waste,” as the association states in a statement.Among the features guaranteed by the standard is programmable power supply, which allows the phone to better manage the temperature of the device and charger during charging.

Fast charging systems are generally those that exceed 10 watts of power (W) , and USB Power Delivery 3.0 supports up to 100W of charging , using 5, 9, 15, or 20 volt power sources .

The certification also improves the detailed charging information that both the device and the charger are able to provide, so that the charging power can be as high as possible, as charger manufacturer Satechi explains.

This includes functions such as reporting errors in the device such as excessive temperatures -which can affect charging-, so that the user receives a notification when it happens, or other elements that slow down the process.

Since the presentation of this certification two years ago, only one phone has received it: Samsung’s Galaxy S20 range, as recently announced by the USB Forum. The series has 25W fast charging, in the standard and S20 Plus models, or 45W in the S20 Ultra model in its most complete version.

Apart from the USB Forum, the American Qualcomm is responsible for the main ecosystem of fast charging technologies: Qualcomm Quick Charge, an energy efficiency model that works together with Snapdragon processors.

This solution is currently present in 200 electronic devices and 700 accessories -from mobile phones to virtual reality headsets, through wireless speakers and portable batteries-, which makes it “the most prevalent fast charging solution in the industry”, according to the company.This Qualcomm solution already has four generations, the most recent being Quick Charge 4+ , launched in 2017. This system allows charging 50 percent of the capacity in 15 minutes , and adds additional technologies to extend battery life and improve security.

Quick Charge 4+ features include its ability to reduce temperatures by up to three degrees, provide 15 percent faster charging, and up to 30 percent more efficient compared to the predecessor system.

As smartphone battery capacities have increased, most brands have been developing their own fast charging systems for their devices, outside of the USB Forum and Qualcomm .

The Chinese manufacturer Oppo has the 65W SuperVOOC fast charging system , which it has been using since September 2019 on its Reno Ace smartphone -only available in Asia- and which allows it to charge a 4000 mAh battery in 30 minutes .

Among the solutions from other brands is the 65W fast charge used by the Xiaomi Mi 10 -it gets 4500 mAh in 45 minutes- , or the 80W fast charge that a new Nubia mobile will have , among others.

The most advanced system currently is the 100W fast charge in which Xiaomi works, which allows a full charge of 4000 mAh capacity in just 17 minutes .

The panorama is completed with other technologies such as Huawei SuperCharge or Samsung’s adaptive charging (these brands do not usually use Snapdragon or Qualcomm Quick Charge processors), as well as Motorola TurboPower, among other proprietary systems.Given the diversity of solutions, users have two major problems. The first is that not all mobiles are sold with chargers that take full advantage of the device’s fast charging, which forces the user to have to buy an additional charger if they want to have this function.

This happens in multiple current mobiles. Some examples are the Samsung Galaxy Note10+despite the fact that its fast charge is 45W, the charger it includes is 25W , as reported by GSMArena-, the Motorola One Actionsupports 15W charging, only a 10W one is included in the box – or the Xiaomi Redmi 8 -18W, but with a 10W charger -.

The other problem is the lack of interoperability of loaders . In the cases in which the chargers use fast charging technologies of specific brands, it is not guaranteed that they are capable of fast charging mobile phones with other systems .

To solve this problem and simplify the situation for users, certifications such as USB Power Delivery and, to a lesser extent, Qualcomm Quick Charge , offer an alternative that does guarantee interoperability and thus helps to mitigate a complex situation for the user.

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