The Truth About Rapid Charging

If you’ve been in the market for a charging cable for your mobile device, you’ve most likely encountered “quick charging” or “rapid charging” cables. Between the off-brand companies promising a faster charge and the oversaturation of cheap USB charging options, the lure of a fast recharge tempts many consumers into purchasing the “faster” and often times more expensive option.

While quick charging is in fact a reality and there are a handful of options that could charge your device faster than the charger than came with your device, there are a few caveats you should be aware of before charging exclusively with rapid chargers.

How does Rapid Charging Work?

To better understand how rapid charging works, it helps to understand the basics of standard charging. When you plug your mobile device in, power runs from the outlet, through the charger, and into your phone. The speed at which your device can charge depends on the amount of power the device can handle at one time, and this varies between devices.

If you have an older phone or tablet that uses an outdated battery and plug it into a modern, higher capacity charger, your device may not charge any quicker due to the restrictions included in your device.   With battery technology increasing so rapidly, even a phone produced 1-2 years ago may not be able to handle the highest amount of high-capacity charging available today.

It helps to think about the power restrictions on a phone as a doorway, of a specific size. Quick chargers work by essentially creating a larger doorway to allow a safe yet higher volume of power to flow into your device at once at a rate that wont hurt your battery. Still, your device needs to be quick charge compatible in order to take advantage of this option.

Choosing the Best Rapid Charger

It’s also important to understand which aspect of the power your device receives affects the charging rate. Picking a charger with the correct amperage (a measure of power) is much more important than simply buying the highest capacity rapid charger on the market. If we take a moment and go back to high school physics class, we’ll remember that (P)ower=I(current aka amperage)V(voltage). So, while voltage is important, seeking out a charger with the highest amperage available with the same connectors as your device will net you a faster charging time.

For those of us that didn’t pay attention in physics, lets look at three different charging scenarios for the same Apple device. Say you wanted to charge your iPad. You could use a lightning connector plugged into a computer via USB, an iPhone charger, or an iPad charger plugged into a wall- all of which deliver power differently.

The USB charger delivers 5 volts of power at 500 mA, netting only 2.5 watts of power. The iPhone charger delivers 5 volts at 1000 mA, netting a respectable 5 watts, while the iPad charger comes in for the win with 5.1 volts at 2100 mA.   While each of these options will indeed charge your device, using the USB option will charge the iPad about 4 times slower than the charging cable it came with. In this respect, the quick charging can be a bit of a myth because some of the best charging options simply have to do with choosing the right option for your device.

Does Rapid Charging Damage Devices?

While quick charging seems to be a highly useful option for your everyday charging needs, you should be aware that rapid chargers tend to require more power, which in turn discharges more heat (which isn’t great for the health of your battery or the device itself.) Additionally, most rapid chargers only charge at the higher rate for about half of the charge time. Once the battery reaches a certain percentage, the charging rate drops significantly and the remaining portion of the battery charges at a slower rate.

So, before you run out and purchase a new quick charger, consider the pros and cons of quick charging and whether the optimal charging method for you is feasible for you. You’ll also want to check the specs of your phone to determine the maximum amperage and voltage it can handle.  Luckily, many of the rapid charging options available are in fact cross compatible, so there is little worry about mixing and matching USB chargers and cables to try and achieve the fastest charging time. Just be sure to do the math to make sure the charger you’re buying will really give you the most bang for your buck.

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