Tech

How to Charge Devices Faster, Smarter

Let’s talk adaptors, watts, volts, and amps.
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Read up if you want to know how to charge your devices faster.

So your data has just been restored on that brand-spanking new iPhone 11, that you’ve set up with tempered glass and a see-through case (because you want to show off that it’s Midnight Green), and as you rummage through the box, you see an odd-looking USB adaptor. What can it be?

That’s an 18W power adaptor, which means it can charge devices—iPhones, iPads, and smartphones and tablets from other brands, too—much faster than the old white brick plug that came with old iPhone models.

Forgetting for a second the fact that it uses a USB-C connector, you’re probably wondering why and how does this charge faster? Aren’t all USB adaptors the same? Well, like most everything in life, these things also come in all different shapes, sizes, and more importantly, output.

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(From left to right): 5W, 10W and 18W adaptors

Photo by ERIC TIPAN.

Watts, Volts, and Amps

Let’s talk Watts (W) first. Wikipedia calls it a unit of power that quantifies the rate of energy transfer. Inference dictates that, the higher the wattage, the greater the power it consumes (or produces).

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Volt (V) is the measurement of the force that moves the electrical charge from source to destination, and Amps (A) shows the amount of electrical current flowing through a conductor.

The most common metaphor used online to understand it better is to think of water and how it flows through pipes. Volts will be water pressure; Amps is the volume of water going through the pipe; and Watts is the power generated by the water.

Standards

Three decades ago, we could only charge our mobile devices using the proprietary cable and adaptor it came with. Use the wrong one and it won’t fit, won’t charge, or worse, bust your device.

It’s now 2020, and thanks goodness for the Battery Charging Specification set by the USB Implementers Forum, there are now standards for charging USB devices precisely to do away with such problems, and to also increase charging power and decrease charging time.

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Now you can happily swap between adaptors from various device makers without fear that your device might explode.

Check your adaptor

As you may have surmised, not all USB adaptors are created equal. To know which is which, one must simply read the label. Each adaptor comes with one, albeit written so small you might need a magnifying glass to read it (I did).

These labels carry a lot of words and symbols on it but the important ones to remember are Watts, Volts and Amps, as in 5W 5V --- 1A. Those numbers indicate how fast, or slow, the adaptor charges. Note that sometimes, Watts isn’t indicated on the label.

If you can only remember one unit of measurement, make it Amps: the higher the number, the faster your device will charge. Simple.

More powerful adaptors will show 5.1V --- 2.1A or 5.2V --- 2.4A, while newer ones even have 5V --- 3A or 9V ---2A. These are considered fast chargers and can power up your devices at half the time.

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Branded adaptors also have a feature that allows it to communicate with batteries to know exactly how much power it should put out.

USB, USB-C and USB adaptors

Photo by ERIC TIPAN.

Batteries

Unlike adaptors, most batteries today are made the same, have fast-charging-capabilities and come with tech that regulates the power it takes in to prevent overcharging. So, it doesn’t matter what adaptor you use, it will only allow as much electricity as it was designed to handle.

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Some of you may be thinking, “Will quick-charging my battery all the time reduce its health?” Well, it’s a yes and no really. Battery and device manufacturers spend a lot of money to ensure that the smartphone, power source, and the supplied charger all complement each other to deliver optimum performance, so exclusively using the supplied charger certainly won’t damage the battery.

That being said, greenbatteries.com says that strictly speaking, “a battery that is always slow charged will likely last a little longer than one that is always rapid charged. However, the difference is so small that it is not likely to be noticeable for most users.”

Mix and match

With that knowledge, feel free to use an iPad adaptor to charge your smartphone, or even a laptop adaptor to power up your tablet. So long as the cables match up correctly to the adaptor’s and device’s port, you’re good to go.

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If you’re buying a third-party adaptor, make sure it complies with international standards and is marked accordingly. Some of these logos can be faked though so it is best to buy branded and/or genuine items from authorized resellers to make sure your 50-, 60-, 70-thousand-peso device doesn’t get fried by a cheap knockoff. Also, get the one with multi-ports so that you can charge several devices simultaneously.

I personally prefer charging at 2.4A (I use a hub for that) because, in this day and age, I literally have no time for slow charging. And worse, slow charging makes me forget that I’ve plugged something in and I end up leaving it hooked up for hours after it has peaked at a hundred percent. Granted it won’t overcharge, heat is still a battery’s sworn enemy, but that’s another topic for a whole new article altogether.

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For now, get yourself a new adaptor. Charge fast, but always remember to charge smart.

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Eric Tipan
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