Fast charging standards: How many are there? How are they different?

Many smartphones offer support for fast charging technologies. By using them, our smartphones can charge a lot quicker than older smartphones could. That can only be a good thing considering how fast modern processors have become and how much energy our smartphones need. Unfortunately, there are a lot of different fast charging standards used by hardware manufacturers and, while some are compatible with others, others are not. If you want to know more about fast charging standards and how are they different from one another, read on:

How does fast charging work?

Fast charging is a feature that most smartphones offer, regardless of whether they are premium models or affordable ones. Obviously, fast charging is a technology that lets smartphones charge their batteries faster than normal, at least until their batteries reach a certain power charge level. How does it work though?

The answer is both simple and complicated: there are more than just one fast charging standards and all of them are different from the others. However, they also have one thing in common: fast charging sends more electrical current to the battery, and that makes it charge quicker.

An iPhone charging its battery

Modern smartphones and tablets usually have charging cables with a USB Type-A connector at one end and various types of USB connectors at the other end. iPhones use Apple's Lightning connector, while Android smartphones use USB Type-C or mini-USB connectors. There are even universal cables with all three types of connectors, that fit to all modern smartphones and tablets, like in the picture below.

Universal Cable with Micro-USB, USB-C and Lightning Connectors from Belkin

The end of the cable with the USB Type-A connector is plugged into the charger or some other charging source. Some cables use USB 2.0 ports, while others use USB 3.1 ports. However, there is always a clear connection between the USB port on one end of the cable and the connector on the other end. Charging cables with mini-USB connectors use a USB 2.0 port on the end that you plug into the charger, cables with USB Type-C connectors usually plug into USB 3.1 ports, while Apple's Lightning cables use a USB 2.0 port. However, for the iPad Pro series, starting in 2015, Apple uses USB 3.0 and 3.1 ports, depending on the generation of the device.

USB ports and common connector types

The common thing between all charging cables for smartphones and tablets is the fact that they all rely on the USB (Universal Serial Bus) technology. This standard says that USB 2.0 ports must deliver 0.5 Amperes using 5 Volts for 2.5 Watts. The USB 3.0 specification delivers 0.5 or 0.9 Amperes of current at 5 Volts and a maximum power of 4.5 Watts. The USB 3.1 specification supports electric current values of 0.5, 0.9, 1.5, 3, or 5 Amperes, using a voltage between 5 and 20 Volts, and can deliver a maximum power of 100 Watts.

Charging specifications of USB standards

Volts measure voltage, Amperes measure the current, and the Watts measure electrical power. Volts multiplied by Amperes equal Watts. There's no minimum combo of Volts, Amperes, or Watts to indicate that you have fast charging. There is no common factor between them because your smartphone's manufacturer could choose to boost either the voltage or the amperage, or even both, to achieve a higher electrical power. As you can see in the table above, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 offer little charging power, and it would take a long time to charge the battery of a modern smartphone using just the default characteristics of the USB technology. This is why many smartphones use charging cables that have a USB 3.1 port with a USB Type-C connector, which allows them to use higher voltages and faster-charging technologies.

As a result, fast charging translates into more power sent to the battery of a smartphone or tablet.

How many fast charging standards are there?

Although we are thankful that fast charging standards exist, unfortunately, there are many of them, and various hardware manufacturers create and use different versions. As we write this article, there are nine different fast charging standards commonly used, although some of them are not exactly "original," as they are based on others made by different companies. The most important fast charging standards are USB PD (USB Power Delivery), Qualcomm Quick Charge, Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging, Apple Fast Charging, Huawei SuperCharge, Motorola TurboPower, Oppo Vooc, OnePlus Dash Charge, and MediaTek Pump Express. For a quick overview of their main specifications, read the table below:

The characteristics of today's fast charging standards

Now let's talk a bit of detail about the most common fast charging standards out there:

USB-PD (Universal Serial Bus Power Delivery)

USB ports are found on most modern devices and, when it comes to smartphones, they are present on most of them. Phones use USB not only to transfer data but, most importantly, to charge their batteries. As batteries have increased in capacity over the years, so did our need to charge them faster. Thus came to existence the USB Power Delivery standard, which offers:

  • Increased power levels of up to 100 Watts
  • The power direction is no longer fixed, meaning that the charging can occur both ways and you can, for example, use your smartphone to charge another device
  • Fast charging at voltages between 5 and 20 Volts, and 0.5, 0.9, 1.5, 3, or 5 Amperes, and can deliver a maximum power of 100 Watts

The USB-PD is a fast charging standard that you can find both on smartphones as well as on other devices such as laptops, monitors, portable storage units and others.

It has the significant advantage of being an open charging standard that any manufacturer can use and implement into its devices. On the other hand, although it is free and highly scalable, it also has the significant disadvantage that it only works with USB Type-C connectors.

Qualcomm Quick Charge

Qualcomm Quick Charge is the most popular fast charging standard in the world and it is used on over 800 different devices, like smartphones and chargers. It is developed by Qualcomm and works with Snapdragon processors for mobile devices. However, not all the smartphones that have a Snapdragon chipset also support fast charging. This is an optional feature that each manufacturer can choose to include on its smartphones or tablets. Up until now, Qualcomm has released four different versions of its proprietary Quick Charge standard, all of them being backward compatible:

  • Quick Charge 1.0: 5 Volts, maximum of 2 Amperes, and 10 Watts. Do you remember that Volts multiplied by Amperes equals Watts? Well, 5 Volts times 2 Amperes equals 10 Watts.
  • Quick Charge 2.0: 5, 9, and 12 Volts, maximum of 3 Amperes and 18 Watts. The maximum electrical power is achieved when using an input of 9 Volts and 2 Amperes, which multiplied gives you 18 Watts.
  • Quick Charge 3.0: 3.6 to 20 Volts in 200 microVolts steps, maximum between 2.5 and 4.6 Amperes and 18 Watts. Similarly to Quick Charge 2.0, the 3.0 version also gives you the maximum electrical power when using an input of 9 Volts and 2 Amperes, which equals into a total of 18 Watts.
  • Quick Charge 4.0+: the same as Quick Charge 3.0 but also adds support for USB-PD Mode (USB Power Delivery Mode), which is another fast charging standard. The USB-PD Mode compatible specs of Quick Charge 4.0 are 5 or 9 Volts and maximum 3 Amperes and 27 Watts.

A few examples of smartphones that offer support for Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0 are LG G8 ThinQ and LG G7 ThinQ, Razer Phone 2, and Xiaomi Mi 9.

The list of devices that support Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 is much longer. Among them, you can find Nokia 9, LG Q9, Sony Xperia F7 and XZ (1 and 2), or Xiaomi Mi Mix (1 and 2).

Amazingly, some new smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S10+ and S10 only support Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0.

You can find the full list of devices that support Qualcomm Quick Charge, sorted by version, in this PDF file: Qualcomm Quick Charge Technology Device List.

Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging

Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging is a fast charging standard that's based on Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0, and which is compatible with chargers that support that standard. It is found on most Samsung smartphones, including the high-end Samsung Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus.

Samsung Galaxy S10+

Apple Fast Charge

Apple chose to use the USB PD (USB Power Delivery) standard for the Apple Fast Charge on its latest iPhones, starting with iPhone 8 and iPhone X. However, none of the iPhones sold by Apple bundle USB PD-compatible chargers. In other words, the latest iPhone models support fast charging but their default chargers do not. That means that Apple forces you to buy USB-PD compatible chargers and cables separately if you want to fast charge your iPhone.

Apple 30W USB-C Power Adapter

Motorola TurboPower

Motorola TurboPower is a fast charging standard that's found on Motorola smartphones, which is based on Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0. That means that it should be compatible with chargers that support Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0. The latest version of this fast charging standard is called Motorola TurboPower 30 and is also compatible with USB-PD.

Motorola TurboPower 30 charger

MediaTek Pump Express

MediaTek Pump Express is a fast charging standard that is developed by MediaTek and can be found on smartphones that run MediaTek processors. Although MediaTek is a competitor of Qualcomm, the MediaTek Pump Express fast charging standard is compatible with Qualcomm Quick Charge, which is great.

A charger that supports MediaTek Pump Express

OnePlus Dash Charge, OnePlus Warp Charge, Oppo VOOC, and Oppo Super VOOC

OnePlus Dash Charge is based on Oppo's VOOC fast charging technology, and the two should be compatible with one another. Although these are some of the fastest charging standards in the world, they have the significant disadvantage of not being compatible with other standards.

Smartphones that use these charging standards can fast charge only with proprietary chargers because they require special circuitry built into the chargers. They do not work with third-party chargers made by companies other than their manufacturers.

OnePlus Fast Charge power adapter and cable

Huawei SuperCharge and SuperCharge 2.0

Huawei SuperCharge and its 2.0 version are fast charging standards that are proprietary to Huawei. It can deliver up to 10 Volts and 4 Amperes, and up to a maximum of 40 Watts of electrical power. The standards are also compatible with Qualcomm Quick Charge, and they are found on Android smartphones such as the Huawei P20 Pro, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, or the Honor View 20.

Huawei SuperCharge adapter

What happens when you charge a smartphone with a fast charger from another company, with another charging technology?

Yes, you can use any charger to charge any smartphone, because all chargers are compatible with the others. However, in the worst case scenario, your smartphone might charge slowly, using the lowest voltage and amperage compatible both with your smartphone and your charger. Do not expect to be able to fast charge your smartphone using a fast charger from another company, with another fast charging tech built into it. Some fast charging standards are compatible with others, and that means that you might be able to get fast charging when mixing chargers and devices with compatible standards. However, there is a lot of trial and error in doing so, and it might not always work as you expect. The fastest charging speed of a smartphone is usually achieved using its bundled charger and charging cable, except when using an iPhone, for which you need to purchase a separate fast charger.

Are you happy with the fast charger that comes with your smartphone?

We prefer to use the chargers that are bundled with our smartphones, and avoid using other chargers than the ones officially supported by our smartphones. However, we also use borrowed chargers on occasion, even if that means waiting for a lot longer to charge our devices. Do you do the same? What's your favorite fast charging standard? Are you happy with the charger that you get with your smartphone? Comment below and let's discuss.

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