Fast charge technology for smartphones is the rave right now. It is all we can hear about on adverts and reviews. A smartphone without fast charge technology is usually down rated by a lot of reviewers and customers alike.
What is fast charge technology for smartphones? What does it mean and why should you even bother?
As the name implies, fast charge simply means charging a battery really fast, faster than conventional methods would allow. This is done by increasing the current/voltage sent to the battery.
The basic USB specification for charging used to be 5V/0.5A (2.5W). The standard today however has been bumped up to 5V/2A (10W). Any charger or phone that can charge faster than 10W is said to be capable of fast charging.
How Fast Charge Technology For Smartphones works
Fast charging works by taking advantage of the rapid charging/constant current phase. It achieves this by pumping as much current as possible into the battery. This can be done by either increasing the current delivered or increasing the voltage.
When using high voltages, the power circuit in most smartphones are designed to step down the voltage and step up the current. This keeps the amount of power delivered the same e.g. 10V/2.5A = 25W. After voltage step down, 5V/5A = 25W. This is called a switch-mode-step-down power supply or buck inverter.
Buck inverters are used to increase or maintain charging efficiency so that even if the power supply drops or increases voltage, power delivery will remain constant. This is the method of fast charging used by Qualcomm (Quick Charge) and USB (Power Delivery).
The other method is by keeping the voltage stable but increasing the current delivered. Oppo (VOOC/Super VOOC) and One Plus (Warp Charge) are good examples.
Different companies use different standards, wires/cables, charging technologies etc. to achieve this goal. The goal of charging a battery really fast. In fact, as we speak, there is a fast charge arms race with Xiaomi set to be the first company to release 200W fast charge.
Fast charging technologies
First up on our list is Chinese tech giants Huawei and their Super Charge. It is capped at 40W (10V/4A). The first-generation offered a 22.5W power output (5V/4.5A). Huawei increased this rating to 40W (10V/4A) with the Mate 20 Pro and made the same available on the Huawei P30 Pro, Mate 30 Pro, and the P40 Pro/Pro Plus smartphones.
Next up is Samsung. Samsung’s charging technology is based on USB Power Delivery. The first Adaptive Fast Charging protocol supported 18W (up to 9V/2A) charging but is limited to only flagships, starting with the Galaxy Note 5 and up to the Galaxy S20 series. After lagging behind for a while, Samsung finally moved to 25W (11W/2.25A) charging in 2019, and this standard is officially named Samsung Super Fast Charging. The 25W charger is claimed to charge the 4500mAh battery on the Galaxy A70 to approximately 65% in 60 minutes.
Notably, Samsung also launched 45W (10V/4.5A) charging with the Galaxy Note 10 series and then on the Galaxy S20 series. This technology is called Super Fast Charging 2.0, but went back to 25W charging on the Galaxy Note 20 and the Galaxy S21 series.
USB Power Delivery is a standard for delivering power to smartphones and other USB devices. It can provide up to 65W to USB devices using micro-USB and 100W to devices using USB C. While these figures are impressive, the wattage being used by manufacturers are between 15W (5V/3A) and 27W (9V/3A).
Qualcomm Quick Charge (Q.C) is the most popular and most widespread charging technology. This is due to the ubiquity of Snapdragon SoCs in a lot of phones. The first iteration of Quick Charge, Q.C 1.0 was released in 2013 and has a speed of 10W (5V/2A). It was soon followed by Q.C 2.0 the next year (2014) which improved charging speeds to a max of 36W (5V – 9V – 12V/3A). Q.C 3.0 came in 2015 with greatly improved charging speeds of 92W (3.6V – 20V/2.5A – 4.6A). Q.C 3.0 also came with intelligent power management and smart charging.
In 2016, Q.C 4.0 came with even better power management and smarter charging which helped to protect against overheating, overcurrent supply etc. Q.C 4.0 was also where cross-compatibility with USB-PD technology was introduced.
Q.C 4.0+ showed up in 2017 and introduced safer charging and better heat management. The charging speed for Q.C 4.0+ are the same as those from Q.C 3.0. In addition it offered speeds of 27W (5V – 9V/3A) when used with PD chargers.
Motorola Turbo charge is a derivative of USB PD and offers charging speed of 28.5W (5V – 9V – 12V/5A – 2A).
Xiaomi’s MI Turbo charge is a modification of Qualcomm’s Quick Charge Technology.
MediaTek Pump Express is a charging technology from the company MediaTek. In 2014, MediaTek announced Pump Express Plus with its specifications similar to Q.C 2.0. It delivered power up to 24W (12V/2A). In 2015, MediaTek announced Pump Express Plus 2.0 parallel to Quick Charge 3.0. Pump Express 3.0 was announced in 2016, and it brought support for USB-PD. It supports power delivery of up to 25W (3V – 6V/5A).
Pump Express 4.0, released in 2018, has similar current and voltage specifications and brought USB-PD support.
OPPO is among the smartphone industry leaders when it comes to fast charging. Their first generation proprietary fast charge technology is called VOOC (Voltage Open Loop Multi-step Constant-Current Charging) Flash Charge technology. Oppo’s VOOC increases the current value while keeping the voltage close to the battery’s voltage. This removes the need to step down the voltage using buck inverters. This in turn prevents overheating. With VOOC, OPPO smartphones could charge at 20W (5v/4A).
In 2019, OPPO introduced VOOC 3.0 with support for 25W (5V/5A) with the OPPO Reno series. Later on in the year, OPPO launched VOOC 4.0 with the charging rate bumped to 30W (5V/6A). In 2020, OPPO showcased the SuperVOOC 2.0 charging technology with a 65W (10V/6.5A) output. This was first introduced with the OPPO Find X2 Pro and later iterated on the OPPO Reno 4 Pro and the OPPO Reno 5 Pro.
Oppo VOOC technology is utilized on sister brands under different names. On One Plus phones, it is known as Warp Charge and on Realme phones, it is known as Super-Dart charge.
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