What’s the fastest way to charge your phone?

This one probably won’t surprise you.

Wireless charging has been around for a while now. It’s so established that even Apple is doing it. I admit that I wirelessly charge my phone most of the time, and I don’t really notice how long it takes because it’s happening overnight. But, there are going to be times you want to charge quickly, and it’s going to help to know what the best way to do that is.

How wired charging works

Wired charging is the OG of charging. It’s the granddaddy of all charging methods. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t gotten smart over the last few years. If you have a late model iPhone or Galaxy, you’ll find that the charging is actually quite smart.

Both iPhone and Galaxy support some form of fast charging. I know the current generation iPhone XS supports even faster charging over a wire than the iPhone X, but hey, I didn’t have one of those.

Good: Standard charging cube

Everyone has a couple of these lying around, probably. Whether it’s the original equipment model or a lookalike, they all provide about the same power, about 5 watts. Some USB ports provide even less than that. This is enough to get you a full charge in about three hours. That’s … better than nothing.

Better: 2.1 amp charger

You can get these pretty much anywhere. This is the 2.1 amp USB charger from Retrak, which yields a shade over 10 watts. You can use the original charger that came with an iPad but there are so many other options that cost less, if you don’t have an iPad charger that’s fine. This charger will get you up and moving in about an hour and a half. More importantly, it will get you to an 80% charge very quickly, in about 45-50 minutes. The software in the phone is smart enough to pull the max amount of juice for as long as it can, and then charging speeds slow down as the battery gets close to full. This keeps the phone’s battery healthier for a longer period of time.

Absolute fastest: QC 3.0 charger

QC 3.0 is the latest charging technology found in the latest iPhones and Galaxy phones. By pumping a full 60 watts out of the charger, they claim you can get up to 80% in under half an hour and up to a full charge in 45 minutes. Of course you’d really want a fast charger to be even faster than that, but what it really means is you’re back up and running with at least 50% charge in 15-20 minutes which is pretty reasonable.

What about wireless charging?

Wireless charging uses coils and a form of radio wave to make an electrical connection without actually connecting wires to each other. It’s super neat because you can just put your phone down on a charging surface, but wireless charging isn’t as efficient as wired charging. Even in the tiny distance between the charger’s coils and your phone’s coils, there’s a lot of loss. That means it’s harder to get charging faster.

Good: 5 watt wireless

The first generation charging pucks were only 5 watts and that meant it took about 4-5 hours to get a full charge. These chargers are good to have on your desk where you can leave the phone all day, but they’re no fun to rely on to charge your phone when you need it.

Better: Fast Charging

Fast-charge certified charge pads like this one will give you 7.5 watts of charging which seems to be about the max my poor iPhone X will take. It still took 2.5 hours for a full charge which is the lowest speed you’ll get from virtually any wireless charger. However, I didn’t notice the phone getting hot even through the case. Other folks I know who have wireless chargers report that the phone gets pretty hot. That’s a little unnerving to me.

Best: QC 3.0

A 10 watt wireless charger like this one will give you the fastest wireless charging speeds you can get today. You’ll need the latest iPhone or Galaxy to take advantage of it, and if you do have one of those you should expect about 1.5 hours for a full charge which is pretty much acceptable. However with anything older it’s still going to charge at the lower speed of 2.5 – 3 hours for a full charge. The QC 3.0 system actually communicates with the phone to know how fast it can safely charge.

The future

There are plans for much faster wireless chargers. It should be possible in the future to be able to charge your phone fully in 20 minutes, wirelessly. However that is going to take a lot more current and the cost to charge the phone will go up a little bit. It’s also not clear how future phones will manage the heat issue. As you charge that fast, the phone’s battery heats up significantly and could even swell. This would destroy any phone that wasn’t designed to deal with those issues. But, I’m confident they’ll figure out solutions and I would be surprised if we’re dealing with wired charging at all in a few years. Losing the wired charger would free up a lot of space inside the phone which would make it easier to put in a bigger battery. In that way, we all win.