We will tell you how quick charging works, dangers, and maximum speeds below.
It seems that smartphone manufacturers have decided to solve one of the most pressing problems in the ecosystem since the arrival of smartphones and the drastic increase in energy consumption: the problem of autonomy. To this end, internal batteries are beginning to grow in a more or less standardized way throughout the market, but a lot of effort is also being put into developing quick charging.
Just take a look at the latest standard released, Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 5.0, and its 100W limit for quick charges, but there are many other options on the market and also “tricks” to exceed the limits using different methods such as dual batteries. But first of all, let’s look at what exactly is quick charging, although the concept is more fluid than it seems and may evolve.
What is quick charging and how does it work?
When describing the charge supported by a smartphone or that which an external charger is capable of delivering, manufacturers commonly use watts. Watts are nothing more than a unit of power with which the consumption, in this case, delivery, of energy of a device is measured. It is a value that is calculated with a simple multiplication of volts by amperes.
As a quick and very simplified example, let’s imagine we have a highway. Each lane of the highway is one ampere and the width of each lane would be measured in volts. If we have wide lanes we can run wider vehicles carrying more people (or energy) across them, and the more lanes we have, the more vehicles can travel the highway in parallel. So volts times amps equal watts. Thanks to that operation we calculate the “power of the highway”, its capacity to transport more or fewer people from point A to point B. Or from the plug to our smartphone.
We said at the beginning that the concept of quick charging is somewhat fluid since quick charging can be defined as anything that exceeds standard charging. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If everyone is driving at 80 kilometers per hour on our highway, those going 90 kilometers per hour are going quick, and that average speed can vary. So for a long time, the standard charging speed was 5 watts or 5W, and anything above that speed was considered quick charging. Today it would be more correct to say that the standard charge is 10W, and it won’t be long before we raise that average to 15W or 18W, time to time.
Thus, manufacturers are constantly investing money in their research and development teams to achieve quicker and quicker quick charging, using different systems. Some of them try to standardize, such as those enabled by processor manufacturers like Qualcomm or MediaTek, and others of them are proprietary systems such as the quick charges of OPPO, OnePlus, Huawei, or Xiaomi, to name the best known.
Xiaomi was the last company to bring to the table a new quick-charging system that was also explained, the 120W quick charging system of its Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra (not to mention its 200W system that has not yet been set foot on the market). It does this by playing with the current flows of the power coming through the charger and delivering power to every single part of the battery. This is one of the tricks we cited earlier, by the way, “splitting” the battery in two with dual batteries. This way you can power each one separately and effectively double the charging speed.
The dangers of quick charging
Although it would perhaps be more correct to speak of a single danger if the system works as it should and has no factory defects (DEP for the Galaxy Note 7), because the great enemy of smartphone batteries, which are currently Li-Ion or lithium-ion batteries, is heated. Heat is the real nemesis of batteries and a more formidable enemy even than charging cycles. They are also related to heat.
When the temperature of the batteries rises above the recommended temperature, the batteries suffer a higher than normal wear and tear because the heat has a direct impact on their performance. And if charging a battery in the normal way already causes your battery to rise (albeit in a controlled way), quick charging causes the temperature to be even higher. Hence, manufacturers are researching systems to deliver more power without raising temperatures and we even find wireless chargers with built-in cooling.
That is why experts usually recommend that we use quick charging when it is essential, for example when we make short stops and need to recover the autonomy of the phone as soon as possible. If our rhythm of life makes us charge the phone on the bedside table all night long, it is recommended that we get slow chargers that deliver 5W or less (the USB port of your computer delivers 2.5W, for example). The phone will be able to charge for hours with minimal temperature rise, thus preserving the durability of your battery.
Another major danger that is often associated with quick charging is the economic one, since if we deliver more power to the phone we will consume more electricity and, therefore, our monthly bill will increase. But this danger is not so great given that charging our smartphone has a minimal impact on the annual consumption of our home. According to studies carried out by the National Institute of Statistics, charging our smartphone costs approximately $1,5 per year, and with more aggressive charging systems it can reach $3 per year. Between 12 and 24 cents per month.
Current maximum speeds in quick charging
As we have already mentioned above, Xiaomi has already presented a quick-charging system that allows delivering 200W to compatible smartphones as long as it is wired, and up to 120W when the charging is wireless. This is the Xiaomi HyperCharge and will be able to charge a 4,000 mAh battery in just 8 minutes. We speak in the future for now, as this charge has not been commercialized. The one that is in circulation by Xiaomi is the 120W charge of its Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra, currently the quickest on the market.
In second place we must place Lenovo, which with its Lenovo Legion Duel for gamers (which recently had a second generation with the Legion Duel 2) launched quick charging of up to 90W, again relying on a dual 2,500 mAh battery per unit. Its system allows us to charge the phone completely in 30 minutes, and in the first 10 minutes, we can charge 50% of it. It is usual for quick charges to be much quicker at the beginning of the charge than at the end, by the way, because of the charging algorithms to preserve the batteries themselves that manufacturers apply.
OPPO, for its part, already has several handsets in circulation with a maximum quick charge of 65W although it already presented a 125W quick charge that has not yet set foot on the market. OPPO’s ceiling right now, therefore, stands at 65W and we can see this charging on its OPPO Find X3 Pro or OPPO Reno4 5G, to name a few examples of recent handsets.
On the same rung as OPPO, we find OnePlus whose patented Dart Charge system currently reaches 65W of maximum quick charging, a system we could see onboard their latest OnePlus 9, for example. There are many more quick charges on the market, of course, such as Meizu’s 40W Super mCharge, or like Huawei’s 40W SuperCharge. Other manufacturers have quick charges but are still far from the top, such as Samsung, Apple, and co.