People in the past never really cared about how fast their phones took to charge as you almost always used to get at least a weeks worth of battery. But with new innovations and features smartphones today last much less then they did in the past.
This stemmed the innovation that we know today as fast charging. But fast charging by itself is a very confusing term as there are multiple standards involved with not all of the working across platforms.
Let us start with the basics. The most basic type of charging you see on smartphones is limited to 5 Watts (5 Volts x 1 Ampere) and is what we refer to as a normal charging speed. This is the speed at which most entry levels smartphones like the Xiaomi Redmi 6A and Asus Zenfone Lite L1 charge at. 5W is also the speed at which your computer charges your phone via the USB port (USB 2.0, 3.0).
Strangely the iPhone XS Max, which is one of the most expensive smartphones you can pick up today also comes with a measly 5W charger in the box. Charging a smartphone with a 3000mAh battery with a 5W charger can take around 3 hours.
10W chargers are the next level of charging and are usually referred to as fast charging but are not fast when compared to the standards we have mentioned below.
Let us now begin by looking into some of the most popular fast charging standards in the market today.
Qualcomm Quick Charge: Not fast enough, but widely accepted
Having started out in 2013 with the QC 1.0 standard, Qualcomm’s Quick Charge is the most popular fast charging standard out there. With Qualcomm processors pretty much dominating the market segment it is only logical for brands to use their fast charging standard as well to save development costs.
While the latest version of QC is the 4.0 and the 4+, the older QC 3.0 standard is equally popular and is still used on smartphones like the Asus Zenfone 5Z or the Redmi Note 6 Pro.
QC 3.0, QC 4.0 and QC 4+ support 18W of charging and are backwards compatible as well. The latest iterations of QC, 4.0 and 4+ even support 27W USB- PD (over USB-C). QC 4+ can charge up to 50 per cent in 15 minutes as claimed by the manufacturer, while QC 3.0 achieves the same in an hour.
A QC 4+ powered LG G7 ThinQ takes around 100 minutes to fully charge a 3000mAh battery. Also due to its Quick Chargers popularity, it is easy to find third-party QC supporting power banks, chargers, car chargers and cables.
VOOC/ Super VOOC/ Dash Charge/ Warp Charge: The fastest out there but poor compatibility
After the Qualcomm Quick Charge standard, Dash Charging is probably one of the most popular standards out there due to the immense success of the OnePlus smartphones. Dash charge is actually based on Oppo’s VOOC charging and comes with some neat tricks to speed up charging.
The first part of it is that they use a low voltage - high current method (20 W = 5 V x 4 A) to force more power into their phones without causing heating. Next trick they use is to move all the charging mechanism onto the charging brick itself so that whatever conversion is needed to step down the voltage (5V to 3.7 V of the battery) happens on the charger which further reduces the heat generated.
What all this means is that the 3700mAh battery in the OnePlus 6T can recharge in 85 minutes flat. But hold on, that's not the best that Oppo and OnePlus have to offer.
Presenting Super VOOC which is an improved version of the older VOOC/ Dash charging and comes with some really cool innovations to further reduce the charging time.
They start out by improving the power figures, which go up from 20W to a whopping 50W. Then there is the case of the batteries, yes we said batteries because phones with Super VOOC use two batteries. The 50W charger feeds 25W of power to both the 1850 mAh batteries which allows it to charge the 3700mAh battery in just 35 minutes, making it the fastest charging standard currently available in the market. The phones that use this technology are the Oppo Find X Lamborghini edition and Oppo R17 Pro.
Finally, we have Warp Charge 30 that was introduced with the OnePlus 6T McLaren edition. Warp Charge 30 charges at a slightly faster speed due to its 5V-6A (30W) output taking around 20 minutes to top-up 50% of the OnePlus 6T’s 3700mAh battery. Conventional Dash Charging takes around 10 minutes more to charge when compared to Warp Charging.
With so many innovations like using higher current, twin batteries, in-charger charging mechanisms this standard is not compatible with QC or USB-PD standards. In fact, it even needs specialized cables that can actually handle the high current, because of which it is impossible to find third-party accessories for this standard.
Super Charge and Super Charge 2.0: The best of both worlds
Super Charge is a fast charging technology developed by Huawei and Honor and seen only on their phones. Now Super Charge is similar in design to VOOC/ Dash Charging with its high current operation but was more capacious at 25W (5V at 4.5A).
Taking around 73 minutes to charge up a 3400mAh Honor 10, the Super Charge standard was in fact crowded the fastest charging standard by us a few months back. But sadly it is now defeated by Super VOOC from the house of Oppo.
But Huawei is not going to have that lying down so they have come out with the new Super Charge 2.0 standard with support for up to 40W of charging. This high speed of charging combined with Mate 20 Pro’s 4200mAh battery takes around 68 minutes to top up, which although not as fast as Super VOOC, destroys every other standard out there.
Now before you quickly dismiss Super Charge due to its slower than SuperVOOC Charging speed, you have to look into the compatibility of the standard. Not only is Super Charge compatible with USB-PD but always plays well with Qualcomm’s QC standard. So it really doesn’t matter which charger you use, you do get fast charging speeds (though not as fast as using a Super Charge 2.0 charger).
USB-PD: The standard that aims to unify them all….and fails
Due to the sheer number of standards out there with each using proprietary technology and hardware, the USB-PD standard was created to make charging more uniform with better safety protocols. USB-PD actually aims to unify charging for almost everything that charges off a USB connector including laptops. Hence USB-PD actually has support for up to 100W (20V at 5A) of power.
To add some more information about power delivery over USB, take your computers USB ports as an example. You can have USB 2.0 ports (Type A) or USB 3.0 ports (Type A) which support power output at 5V at 0.5A or 0.9A respectively. Whereas USB Type-C ports can support power output from 5V at 1.5A all the way up to 20V at 5A. But for now, not many smartphones support the full USB PD speeds, with most of them limited to 15-18W.
The Pixel 3 XL comes with a 3430mAh battery and uses an 18W charger which takes 123 minutes to fully charge. While using the 87W Macbok charger the iPhone XS Max can charge its 3174mAh battery in 121 minutes (compared to the 209 minutes it takes with the 5W charger). Do note that the iPhone doesn’t really use the full 87W capacity and caps off at 18W.
When compared to the other standards, USB-PD just doesn’t seem very fast and variations in speed depending on the connector are just the start of the problem. Some chargers that are designed to work with USB-PD do not work on some devices that support USB-PD while some devices that have USB-C do not support USB-PD charging at all. All this leads to sheer confusion and creates more hurdles then provide a solution to the messy standards we have.
Popular products that use the USB-PD standard include the Pixel phones, iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, Chromebooks etc.
MediaTek Pump Express: Fast but not as popular
MediaTek's Pump Express is found on smartphones that use the MediaTek processor. It’s latest version is the Pump Express 4.0 which can charge up to 5V at 5A making it very similar in working to OnePlus’ Dash Charging and Huawei's Super Charge. Pump Express as a standard isn’t very popular due to very little smartphones actually using Mediatek Processors.
The Doogee BL9000 sports a 9000mAh battery and using the Pump Express 4.0 standard can fully charge its battery in a whopping two hours and fifty-one minutes. That is extremely fast when compared to the sheer size of the battery. This actually makes it faster than Dash Charging and Super Charge.
One thing to note about the Pump Express standard is that it is found even in relatively affordable devices, like the Infinix Note 5 which is a sub-Rs.10000 device. Add to that the standards support for USB-PD as well as the older Quick Charge 2.0 support and its really a nice standard for mid-range smartphones.
Derivative charging standards: A little change here, a little change there
The Motorola Turbo Power, Asus Boost Master, Vivo Dual Engine Charging and Samsung Adaptive Power standards are off-shoots of the Qualcomm Quick Charge standard. They have some variation in the power and circuit design to adapt to their smartphones but are based on the Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 or 3.0 standard.
Take Motorola’s Turbo Power standard which can go up to 30W despite the QC standard limited to 18W. These standards also work well with Qualcomm Quick Charge certified chargers and power banks.
Apple’s Fast charge standard is also based on the USB-PD standard but is limited to a certain power rating for smartphones while their laptops can use up to 87W of power. Do note that Apple uses their proprietary lighting connector for charging the iPhones while the Macbook and the latest generation of iPads use the USB-C connector. So you will need to pick up a Lighting to USB-C cable if you intend to fast charge your iPhone.
Verdict & Summary
The reason why so many standards exist is that the consumer wants better features and better specifications. While QC or USB-PD standards should be enough we love to flaunt our smartphones and we are not satisfied with fast, we need the fastest.
While this pursuit of speed is ultimately great for you, it does lead to some issues when it comes to upgrading as not all standards work across platforms. This makes it very tricky when picking up your new phone. But manufacturers are slowly understanding this and more and more devices now support uniform standards like USB-PD.
However, if you are in the market for a new phone and want nothing but the fastest charging smartphone out there, you can try the Oppo R17 Pro. The Mate 20 Pro is also no slouch and can fuel up very quickly. But what really surprised us was the Pump Express 4.0 standard which has excellent charging speeds though not as fast as the Huawei and Oppo, it's still pretty fast. Sadly we do not have a single smartphone in India that supports this standard.
The OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition was rumoured to come with 50W charging but we have to make do with just 30W. At least it takes only an hour to top up your battery which is really good considering its price and specifications.
There is obviously more to smartphones than just charging speeds so do check out our articles on the best smartphones for different budgets and watch this space for more articles on various technology standards.