Charge Your Phone Faster

The hardware included with your phone is probably not the fastest way to charge it.

I never paid much attention to phone charging.

For a long time I thought, “it doesn’t matter where I plug it in. A hole’s a hole.”

What can I say, I was a foolish youngster. Later, I upgraded my knowledge to, “plugging it into the wall will charge it faster than plugging it into a computer.”

Wrong again.

Anyone would be forgiven for thinking that the wall charger included with a $500-1000 phone would charge it as fast as the phone can charge. Why wouldn’t you think that? Why wouldn’t they include a wall charger with the maximum output a phone can take?

iPhones, for example, still include that little brick shown above, which only sends 1 amp to your phone.

What’s an amp? It doesn’t matter. Just know that the more amps you can send from the power source to your phone the faster it will charge, up to whatever your phone’s maximum is. That maximum used to be 1 amp or less, so including a 1 amp charger made sense. Now, it can be anywhere from 1.5 to over 3 amps depending on your phone.

If your phone can take 3 amps and you only supply it 1 amp because you’re using that tiny adapter included in your phone’s box, your phone is charging much slower than it can. It’d be like driving on a clear highway, in perfect weather, in a shiny new Porsche, but only doing 60km/h.

For iPhone’ers

Even the newest iPhones can’t take 3 amps but they can take more than 1. The wall plug that comes with an iPad works well. You can buy it for $25 by itself and it can send 2.1 amps, more than the maximum of your phone. Or you can get one from Anker or Aukey that’s rated for 2.1 amps or more.

Note: it’s okay to have a charger that handles more amps than your phone can. It won’t do any harm.

Interestingly, that little 1 amp USB adapter is even slower than plugging your iPhone into a recent Mac. The USB ports on recent Macs are able to supply more power to an iPhone than you’d normally get from a USB port.

This is one more way that Apple keeps their hardware working well together without you noticing. Because if you plug an Android phone into a Mac, you don’t get that extra charging speed.

For Android’ers

First off, don’t charge your Android from a Mac’s USB port. It will range from slow to extremely slow. Second, don’t use the 1 amp USB wall plug from your old iPhone.

I was doing both of those things until last week. Luckily, Android warned me about my slow charging connection and put a message on the screen when I plugged it into my iMac.

Some Androids may be able to use the extra power from a Mac’s USB port, I’m not sure. I only have a single data point and Google’s (the search engine) information on the subject was murky at best.

The good news for some Android’ers is that a better wall plug could be included than with iPhones. My Sony Xperia Z5, at least, came with a 1.5 amp wall plug. So others probably do as well.

However, I imported my phone from the UK and thus it had a UK wall plug. Not living in the UK, I just used the 1 amp wall plug from my iPhone not knowing how much faster my phone could charge.

After seeing the Charging Slowly message, I looked up online that the Z5 can not only take 1.5 amps like the wall plug that came with it, but even more using QuickCharge, some nonsense word that means it uses electrical wizardry that I don’t care to understand to charge faster.

I picked up an Anker wall plug that worked with QuickCharge devices for $17 on Amazon. Then I plugged in my phone to every source and used an app to see how they compared. Because when it feels like companies are relying on my ignorance to make a few bucks, I respond by over-informing myself.

Anyway, here are the results:

Left to right: iMac (2014) USB port, 1 amp iPhone charger, 2.1 amp iPad wall plug, Anker QuickCharge wall plug. 1000 mA = 1 amp. The five bars above the numbers don’t mean anything.

In real numbers, switching my charger reduced my charge-from-20% time from 4 hours to about 1:45. That’s noticeable.

Wall plugs: iPhone 1 amp, iPad 2.1 amp, Anker QuickCharge 3.0, Sony UK 1.5 amp
Wall plugs: iPhone 1 amp, iPad 2.1 amp, Anker QuickCharge 3.0, Sony UK 1.5 amp. Confusingly, these do not line up with the tests above. You’re welcome.

For People With Cars

If your car has USB ports, it’s hard to say how much power they can supply. Some of them only do 0.5 amps. Some do more.

Similarly, if you picked up a cigarette-lighter-USB-adapter at the checkout of an office supply store it’s probably on the lower end.

In either case, you can get an app to measure battery charging and discharging and see how fast your particular car’s plug is.

I picked a 2.4 amp USB adapter, again from Anker. It charges at about the same speed as the iPad wall plug and the included Sony wall plug, but not as fast as the QuickCharge. You can get a QuickCharge car adapter but they are bulkier and I rarely charge in the car.

I didn’t understand any of that

No problem, let me give you the cheat-sheet version.

If your phone is more than a few years old, I just wasted 5 minutes of your life and you have my apologies.

Otherwise, get a USB wall plug with QuickCharge 3.0. Anker and Aukey make good ones that shouldn’t catch on fire like cheaper ones could. It’ll cost you less than $20 and it’ll be the fastest way to charge any phone, iPhone or Android.

Why is this important?

It isn’t, probably, if you live a relatively stationary life and, like me, have charge points by your bed and by your girlfriend’s bed and on your home desk and on your office desk and in your car.

But it is important if, for whatever reason, you’re moving from place to place all the time (even temporarily while travelling, for example) and you find yourself frequently charging your phone for 20 minutes here and 20 minutes there, just getting enough juice to last until you next find yourself around a plug. In that case, sucking as much power from the wall as quickly as you can can be a life-saver.