Buyers guide: phones that support third-party fast chargers and accessories

Tommox third party fast chargers USB PD

Proprietary fast charging technologies are great for juicing up your empty handset, but they have their limitations. Power banks don’t support proprietary standards, neither do car-chargers nor multi-device power hubs. If you use any of these, you’ll want a phone that supports one of the popular standards used by third-party fast chargers. Namely USB Power Delivery and Qualcomm’s Quick Charge.

Unfortunately, even when manufacturers note support for one or more of these standards, there’s often no way of knowing whether you’ll receive the very fastest charging speeds or not. This makes buying accessories a pain. To help you out, we’re testing a bunch of phones to help make these buying decisions easier.

To test, we picked up a Tommox 75W USB-C charger, sporting USB Power Delivery, Quick Charge 3.0, and 2.4A USB outputs. We also grabbed a 60W rated USB-C cable, to make sure the cable isn’t a bottleneck, along with a USB-C power meter, and began testing phones that were running out of battery.

Best picks for 3rd party charger support

Out of all the phones we’ve tested so far, only three support high charging speeds with all third-party fast chargers. These models are the Xiaomi Mi 9, the Nokia 7.1, and the new Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus. All three offer around 15W or more of power with their own charger, USB PD, and Quick Charge 3.0.

Editor’s Pick

Many other phones work with all three standards, but certainly not at these speeds. Typically, a phone’s proprietary charger and cable produces by far the fastest charging results. There are only a couple of exceptions to this rule, including the Samsung Galaxy S9+ and Xiaomi Mi 8 Lite.

In other good news, USB Power Delivery support is becoming increasingly common in modern smartphones. More manufacturers could be outright supporting the standard now that they have a better handle on USB-C. Alternatively, some handsets are also making use of the cross-compatibility feature of Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4 standard.

The Xiaomi Mi 9, Nokia 7.1, and Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus all offer 15W+ of power with their own charger, USB PD, and Quick Charge 3.0.

OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition

Worst proprietary offenders

As we covered previously, OnePlus’ Dash and Warp Charge technologies simply don’t play nicely with third-party chargers. You won’t receive anything above basic charging speeds when connecting your OnePlus handset to USB Power Delivery or Quick Charge devices. This is a prime example of proprietary technology done badly. There’s no excuse for it as faster charging technologies, such as Huawei SuperCharge, are also compatible with third-party protocols.

The oddest phone I’ve tested so far is the Nubia Red Magic Mars. The phone starts working with USB Power Delivery but then negotiates itself out of charging, hitting 12V with no current draw. So plugging the Red Magic Mars into a USB PD port won’t charge the phone at all. It’s likely this could be fixed with a software update, as it’s an example of someone borking their implementation of a charging standard.

Editor’s Pick

LG is by far the worst of the big names tested so far. The V series charging ports repeatedly renegotiate and drops current, prolonging charging times. This also makes it very difficult to read exactly how much power this phone receives. In this instance, Quick Charge works better than Power Delivery.

In general, budget smartphones are more hit and miss with third-party fast chargers compared to more expensive models. Although the Honor View 20 and Nokia 7.1 are clear exceptions. Most mid-range models will provide passable charging speeds from at least one third-party standard. Just double check with the manufacturer, or our master list, to make sure which standard is supported.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro charger.

The full results

To view the full dataset, check out the spreadsheet below or click the link here. Devices receiving less than 10W of power aren’t classified as fast charging, and between 10 and 15W is the minimum we classify as faster than regular charging speeds. Around 15W and above indicates a good fast charging implementation, while above 20W is super fast. The results are color-coded for easy identification to help spot which phones or charging accessories you should buy.

We will continue to flesh out this list as more smartphones pass through our test suite.

Portless phones: Dumb gimmick or inevitable future?

Meizu

Meizu and Vivo, both of which recently announced phones with no ports, are seeking the answer to an age-old question: do people prefer function or form? The answer, as always, is “it depends,” but in this case Meizu and Vivo are asking consumers to vote with their wallets. Should they?

In September 2016, Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone and the internet lost its mind. A number of scathing editorials burned red hot across the web, with the move called “user-hostile and stupid.”

The trusty headphone jack has been a staple in consumer electronics since it was designed in the 1950s. The standard 3.5mm jack got its start with transistor radios, and it later showed up in nearly every type of media device over a six-decade span, including WalkMan radios, cassette and CD players, laptops and PCs, mobile phones and tablets, gaming consoles, and much more. The jack is functional across devices and form factors, making it a must-have. Apple disagrees.

“Maintaining an ancient, single-purpose, analog, big connector doesn’t make sense because that space is at a premium,” said Phil Schiller, Apple COO, at the iPhone 7’s launch. Schiller claimed Apple needed to lose the headphone jack in order to waterproof the iPhone 7, and even said it took “courage” to be among the first phone makers to take this step. The company continues to sell lots of iPhones.

USB-C, headphone jack: Samsung S9 lilac and Google Pixel 3 with bases showing to reveal headphone jack and lack thereof.

Any port in a storm

Like it or not, Apple set a precedent and other phone makers followed. Google ditched the headphone jack in favor of USB-C audio, as did Motorola, Huawei, and OnePlus, among others. In each case, the phone maker provided a pair of USB-C headphones or a 3.5mm-to-USB-C adapter. The trend is slowly catching on, but that doesn’t mean people are happy about it.

What Meizu and Vivo are doing is next-level user hostility.

The front and back of the Meizu Zero. Meizu

The Meizu Zero has absolutely no ports. None. It drops the headphone jack, the USB-C port, the SIM card slot, the memory card slot. Need to power up your phone? The Zero sports wireless charging. Want to listen to music? Bluetooth, my friend. What about transferring files? Use the cloud! Need wireless service? An eSIM is inside. While Meizu has an answer to all these nagging everyday needs, you shouldn’t be convinced of Meizu’s logic. At least, not yet.

“Designers dream of clean, port-free lines, but smartphones need to live in the real world, where consumers cannot always expect wireless connections,” quipped Avi Greengart, research director, consumer platforms & devices at GlobalData, to Android Authority. “The loss of the headphone jack at least can be countered by dongles, but until wireless charging spots are ubiquitous, asking consumers to go without a charging cable — which is also used for data transfer and other purposes — simply is not practical.”

Mainstream, here we come?

Charging pads may be available at some Starbucks locations and in some cars, but wireless power is still a niche technology that has yet to be widely adopted. Until every phone ships with a wireless charger by default, consumers will continue to expect to plug their phones in for charging purposes. Moreover, wired charging is still faster than wireless charging.

The idea of phones without physical SIM cards is also problematic. The promise of eSIM, wherein an electronic SIM card can be programmed for network access, has yet to be fully realized. It should be easy, but apparently it’s not.

Apple’s rollout of eSIM in the iPhone Xs and Xs Max, for example, was slow to be adopted by carriers in the U.S. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless added support for the tech months after the phones reached store shelves. Sprint still doesn’t support Apple’s eSIM. Multiply this by hundreds of carriers around the world and you see where this is going.

Then there’s the Meizu Zero’s lack of physical buttons. The Zero features pressure-sensitive edges that are used to manage functions such as adjusting the volume. HTC’s U12 flagship phone was largely panned by reviewers due to its incredibly frustrating pressure-sensitive buttons. Can Meizu succeed where HTC failed? Hard to say.

Like it or not, phone makers are headed in this direction.

“Apple designers eventually hope to remove most of the external ports and buttons on the iPhone, including the charger,” reported Bloomberg last year. Apple weighed making this radical move while developing the 2017 iPhone X. It later scaled back those ambitions due to the cost of wireless charging. That means we’ll see an iPhone with no ports or buttons at some point, and we can expect the same from Apple’s competitors.

Meizu and Vivo are clearly way ahead of the curve, dancing on the bleeding edge for the spectacle alone. Will people buy these portless phones? Sure. Should they? Probably not yet, but we all will at some point down the road.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

USB Type-C, ‘the single cable of the future,’ will be more secure soon

With the vast majority of new Android devices supporting USB Type-C technology and USB Type-C ports showing up on lots of other new devices, there’s a good chance you already have more than a few pieces of tech with Type-C ports.

While having one cable for everything is incredibly convenient, the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) — the big kahuna of USB technology — is worried about the future security of USB Type-C. That’s why the organization is rolling out its USB Type-C Authentication Program which it hopes will help make Type-C systems more secure.

The purpose of the program is to create a secure handshake between different USB Type-C devices. Let’s say, for example, you’re at the airport and want to charge your phone at one of those charging kiosks. However, you’re worried about the security of that charging terminal — is it compromised? With the authentication program in place, you won’t have to worry, as your phone will instantly approve (or deny) any connection using a database of certified equipment.

Editor’s Pick

However, for now, the authentication program is going to be optional, which obviously will prevent it from having much effect. In the future, though, the program could become mandatory which will help all USB Type-C equipment stay safe.

USB-IF president Jeff Ravencraft believes USB Type-C is “the single cable of the future.” If the connection protocol does, in fact, become the “one cable to rule them all,” we’re going to need as many security systems as possible to prevent nefarious persons from abusing the ubiquity of cables and ports.

This year, the latest iPads even include USB Type-C ports, the first Apple mobile product not to use one of the company’s proprietary ports. If even Apple is on board, USB Type-C could really be the cable of the future.

NEXT: It’s 2018 and USB Type-C is still a mess