Assault on Battery: Fast-Charging explained

Fast-Charging explained

From an avid motorhead to a tech junkie, one question has been the intersection of both rather disparate sects:

“How fast can you go from 0 to 100?”

Smartphones have come a long way. From their first gigantic predecessors to their slim, foldable future, they’ve lost a lot of bulk and gained a lot of brains. While everything being fast, getting faster and racing to fastest, there’s one integral component that has been watching in silence. Not anymore.

Smartphone batteries have been worked on as long as smartphones themselves. Daft Punk would’ve been glad to see them getting bigger, better, faster and stronger. Most smartphones nowadays ship with highly efficient Lithium-Ion Batteries. These have enough capacity to power most people throughout their day. The only problem users faced in their fast-paced lifestyles was getting their phone to charge in the first place. This problem isn’t long for this world, thanks to Fast Charging technology.

Who doesn’t want a phone that charges in no time? When you dig deeper, however, charging is a complicated mix of chemistry and physics, and each has its own set of limitations and poorly publicized incompatibilities. What makes it worse is that phone makers slap confusing labels on otherwise straightforward components.

Smartphone Charging Crash Course

Every smartphone has a battery, and every battery delivers power in more or less the same way: a chemical reaction flowing from Positive to Negative.

A regular USB 1.0 and 2.0 plug can deliver up to 5V/0.5A (2.5W).

That’s the charging rate of an average phone, which isn’t much. An Apple iPhone charging at 2A over USB runs 10W. An average incandescent light bulb, in contrast, draws about 40W of power.

Find out more about Smartphone battery charging

Fast Charging

Generic chargers fill up your battery at a consistent, controlled pace because the quick flow of high charge could damage the battery and, if things go really awry, fry your device. Quick charging works around that by increasing the upper limit of voltage that can flow into your battery.

Volts and Amperes are characteristic units of electricity. Amperage (or current) is the amount of electricity flowing from the battery to the device connected, while voltage is the strength of the current. Multiplying volts by amperes gives you watts, the measure of total power.

To make devices charge quicker, most manufacturers either boost the amperage or vary the voltage in order to increase the amount of potential energy going to a device. The latter must be easier since most fast charging standards dynamically vary the voltage rather than boost the amperage.

That doesn’t mean you can DIY this:

Your phone can only take as much as its charging circuit is designed for. It doesn’t matter if you have it plugged into a 5V/3A adapter if it’s only able to handle 5V/2.4A. It would only charge at the rate of the latter. For fast charging to function, you need a device with a charging circuit capable of utilizing the fast charging standards, and an adapter and cable that are calibrated to the same.

Types of Fast Charging

Qualcomm Quick Charge

qualcomm quick charge

The widespread appeal of Qualcomm’s chipsets makes it the most used standard. Quick Charge 2.0 and 3.0 are a common feature in the industry, with Quick Charge 4+ on the horizon. Each iteration is backward compatible with the previous one, meaning that older cables and adapters will still work with newer models.

Quick Charge 2.0 ups the voltage at intervals of 5V, 9V, and 12V. Quick Charge 3.0 can pump volts across a wider range, switching dynamically from 3.2V to 20V, although both peak at 18W. this enables phones can reach an 80 percent charge in just 35 minutes.

AD. standard 4+ narrows the voltage range while simultaneously pumping up the amperage. Qualcomm hasn’t displayed any Quick Charge 4+ phones yet, but theoretically, it allows them to go from zero to 50 percent charged in just 15 minutes.

Oppo Super VOOC Flash Charge

VOOC is Oppo’s proprietary fast charging standard and naturally, you’ll only find it on compatible Oppo phones like the Find and R7. Unlike Quick Charge, VOOC operates with an increase of current rather than voltage. With a compatible adapter and cable, the flash charge circuit is able to transfer a 4A current at 5V, letting your phone charge from zero to 75 percent in 30 minutes, with the addition of a thermal chip so that you don’t have to worry about overheating.

OnePlus Dash/Warp Charge

Dash Charging on the OnePlus isn’t much different, because it’s licensed from Oppo, and it works the same as VOOC, bumping up amperage to 5V/4A to achieve an output of 20W. On a phone like the OnePlus 6, you can charge up to 60 percent in 30 minutes.

MediaTek Pump Express

Mediatek Pump Express

MediaTek-powered phones use the company’s Pump Express Charging technology. Much like Qualcomm Quick Charge, Pump Express comes in different versions on different handsets.

The newest Pump Express 4.0 standard supports 5A of current as well as USB Power Delivery 3.0 with greater efficiency and better heat management. It works with phones carrying a MediaTek Helio P60 chipset and is able to charge to 75 percent in 30 minutes.

Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging

Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging isn’t as widespread as it used to be but works in similar ways as the above standards by bumping up voltage and/or current. Naturally, it only works with certain Samsung devices.

That, however, is no longer the case for a phone like the Galaxy Note 8 (which can charge to 50 percent in 40 minutes) which supports both Adaptive Fast Charging and Qualcomm Quick Charge increasing compatibility.

What About Wireless Fast Charging?

Wireless charging might be convenient, but it can be sluggish. Most wireless chargers that lack cooling are limited to slow charging speeds of 5V/1A. Several companies now offer fast wireless charging pads that come with fans to dissipate heat, letting you charge at speeds on par with a cable.

Learn more about Wireless Charging.

Depending on the device you own, the fast charging standard you’ll be able to use will vary. Find out what your phone supports, then check your wall adapter to see if it supports the same (they’re usually labeled). Then make sure your cord is compatible ( best to use the one that comes with your phone or adapter).

Getting juiced up never felt better.