What is Fast Charging?

Only a few years ago, fast charging wasn’t really a thing. We would wait for hours for our phones to charge completely, and using them during that time slowed things down even further. This is where the concept of overnight charging appeared – you go to sleep and leave your phone to charge. But what happens if you forget to put it on a charger?

Well, that, and the reason that phone batteries don’t last too much nowadays, are the cause for fast charging taking the world by storm. But it seems like not everyone has grasped the concept of fast charging, so let’s check out what it is, how it works, and what some popular options are nowadays.

What is fast charging?

The first thing you should know is how regular phone chargers work. They have a charge output (which corresponds with the phone’s charge input), which is measured in amperage (A) and voltage (V).

The amperage, or the current, is how much electricity goes from the wall outlet, to the device, whereas the voltage indicates the strength of the current. When you multiply these two, you get the wattage (W), which is the charger’s total power.

Android phone fast charging

Now, with a regular USB 3.0 port, you get about 5V/1A for smaller devices, like headphones or smartwatches, whereas phones regularly bump that to 5V/2.4A, which is significantly faster. But even that is slow by today’s standards, where fast charging constitutes voltage levels that go up to 9V or 12V, and amperages of 3A and above.

Arguably the most popular standards nowadays are Apple’s Fast Charging and Qualcomm’s Quick Charge, with manufacturer options like Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging and OnePlus’s Dash and Warp Charge being a solid choice as well – let’s check them all out.

Apple Fast Charging

Apple makes use of the Power Delivery standard, and in order to make use of fast charging for your iPhone (8 and later), you’ll want at least an 18W power adapter (20W for the iPhone 12).

Sure, you could go for a more powerful one – even the 96W power adapters Apple offers, but you won’t get any faster charging. Of course, how long it takes to charge the phone depends on the phone model itself, but when Apple first announced fast charging, they claimed it takes 30 minutes to get up to 50% on an iPhone 8, which is not bad.

Qualcomm Quick Charge

Qualcomm is the go-to fast charging solution for devices that use their Snapdragon processors, and there are a few versions. The current standard for flagship devices is Quick Charge 5, which is quite frankly, impressive.

According to Qualcomm, you can fully charge a 4,500mAh battery in 15 minutes, but in the real world, things are a bit different. For example, Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G takes about 46 minutes to reach 80% charge of its 5,000mAh battery, and then an additional 23 minutes to reach 100%. But if we’re being honest, that’s not slow at all, even though Qualcomm’s claims aren’t really close.

The nice thing about Qualcomm’s Quick Charge is that it’s backwards compatible with previous standards, which means you can use a Quick Charge 5 charger and cable to charge a Quick Charge 2.0 device at it’s maximum supported speed.

Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging

Samsung’s solution is very similar to Qualcomm’s, but it’s made for the company’s own Exynos-powered devices. Charging speeds vary depending on what kind of fast charging your device supports – the S10+, for example, can support up to 15W charging, whereas the S20 Ultra bumps that up to 45W.

It’s a massive difference, but given the differences in hardware and battery capacity, the S20 Ultra doesn’t charge three times more quickly than the S10+.

OnePlus Dash Charge and Warp Charge

Last but not least, OnePlus’s charging protocols are actually licensed from Oppo, and work in a similar manner to Oppo’s Vooc charging standard. The amperage is bumped up quite high – in the case of Warp Charge 65T, you get a 10V/6.5A configuration which results in a staggering 65W total.

OnePlus claims that you can charge the company’s OnePlus 9 Pro from empty, to full, in 29 minutes. That’s incredibly fast, and means you no longer have to worry about overnight charging or spending hours waiting for your phone to charge up.

Wireless Fast Charging

One area where fast charging is incredibly slow to catch up is the world of wireless charging. If you take Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging, for example, devices like the S20 Ultra have wired charging at up to 45W, whereas their wireless charging limit is at 15W. This is a massive difference, but with the way wireless charging works, it’s to be expected.

The main issue with wireless charging is heat, with both charging pads and phones warming up very quickly when being charged wirelessly. This is why most of the wireless charging pads that offer fast wireless charging at or above 15W come with a cooling fan. They not only keep the coils in the charging pad cool, but also cool your phone a bit when it’s on the pad, which is neat.

Apple’s MagSafe

Even though Apple were arguably late to the game of wireless charging, only introducing it with the iPhone X and iPhone 8, their MagSafe solution is arguably the champion in the world of wireless charging. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it was used in some of Apple’s older MacBooks, prior to them switching to USB-C.

Fast charging

In terms of speed, MagSafe does qualify for a fast charger with its 15W speed. However, you’ll need an Apple-approved charger to reach them – otherwise you’re limited to only 7.5W speeds, which are definitely slow.

But it’s not speed that MagSafe focuses on – it’s ease of use. With wireless charging, it’s a bit of a hassle to adjust the phone and charging pad every time, and you’ll have to get it right for the charger to work.

A lot of people get frustrated when they put their phone on a charging pad, only to realize half an hour later they didn’t get it right and the phone isn’t charging. With MagSafe, just like on Apple’s laptops, you have a magnet that snaps the charger in place right where it should be, achieving perfect charging position every time.

To add to this, the world of MagSafe opens up the possibilities of a completely port-less device down the line, with the MagSafe port being the go-to connectivity solution, which would be neat.

And it’s not just connectivity – it’s accessories, too. Apple announced cases that no longer require a lip at the front to stay attached – instead, they use MagSafe’s magnets to stick to your phone. In some cases, those magnets attract more than just cases, too.

What does the future hold?

If we were to take a look at the fast charging (and wireless fast charging) solutions of today, while OnePlus and Oppo’s options are the fastest, it is Apple’s MagSafe that gives us a view at a port-less future where devices still have great accessories compatibility, and can be charged quickly and efficiently without much hassle, and with less cables to your phone. But of course, how that plays out, remains to be seen.