What Is Fast Charging? – PCMag

It seems like every new phone promises faster charging, but what do the different charging technologies mean, and are they equally speedy? We break it all down for you.
I’m a Mobile Analyst at PCMag, which means I cover wireless phones, plans, tablets, ereaders, and a whole lot more. I’ve always loved technology and have been forming opinions on consumer electronics since childhood. Prior to joining PCMag, I covered TVs and home entertainment at CNET, served as the tech and electronics reviews fellow at Insider, and began my career by writing laptop reviews as an intern at Tom’s Hardware. I am also a professional actor with credits in theater, film, and television.
Being able to quickly charge your phone or tablet can mean the difference between hours of care-free use and scrambling to find the nearest coffee shop for a power outlet. Fast charging is gradually becoming a near-ubiquitous feature that allows you to power up your device in just a fraction of the time it took in the past. But with so many technologies to know and components at play, how should you get started?
The first step is to examine what you already have. Check what charging speed and standard your phone supports on its box or manufacturer’s website, examine your wall adapter to see if it uses the same tech (these usually have helpful labels), and look up what charging features your cable can accommodate (you’re best off with the one that comes with your device). If any are incompatible or not up to date, you might need to replace them to realize the fastest charging speeds.
Here, we offer details about power output, charging standards, wireless charging, and more to help you understand how fast charging can benefit you and what you need to keep in mind before you upgrade your setup.
The output of a charger is a matter of amperage and voltage. Amperage (or current) is the amount of electricity flowing from the battery to the connected device, while voltage is the strength of the electric current. Multiplying them gives you wattage, or total power. The majority of fast charging standards typically change the voltage rather than boost the amperage to increase the amount of potential energy.
Standard USB 3.0 ports output at a level of 5V/1A for smaller devices like wearables. Most phones and other devices are capable of handling at least 5V/2.4A. The introduction of USB-C enables even faster speeds at up to 100W (20V/5A). USB4, which also relies on a Type C connector, theoretically supports up to 240W (48V/5A). Laptops can generally handle more power (thus faster charging) than smaller devices like phones and tablets.
Keep in mind that your device will take in only as much power as its charging circuitry allows. Your device, cable, and adapter must all be aligned for charging, let alone fast charging, to work properly.
Although the mobile industry has witnessed lots of different fast charging standards, the proliferation of USB-C ports means that most phones now use USB Power Delivery (USB PD). This protocol negotiates the appropriate amount of power between a charger and your phone. Now in version 3.2, it supports up to 240W of power. Of course, hardly any phones support close to that maximum power level due to the risks of consistently sending that much energy to a device. That said, the Programmable Power Supply (PPS) feature allows a charger to adjust its output in increments as small as 20mV. As a result, phones can request exactly the current and voltage they need. This helps reduce heat production and lengthen a battery’s lifespan.
Many phone and chip makers use some version of Power Delivery for fast wired charging, though some build off the standard to enhance performance. Others use proprietary standards. Read on to find out what you need to know about getting the best fast charging experience from a few popular manufacturers.
Starting with the iPhone 8, all of Apple’s phones support fast charging. If you’re using an older iPhone power adapter, you’re only getting 5W of power and thus not taking advantage of the full capabilities.
Apple relies on USB PD 2.0 for fast charging and claims you can charge its newer phones up to 50% in just 30 minutes. To get these speeds, however, you need at least an 18W adapter with a USB-C or USB-C-to-Lightning cable. A more powerful adapter won’t harm your phone, but it’s unlikely to provide faster performance. That said, the top-of-the-line iPhone 15 Pro Max reached a maximum charging speed of 27W in testing, so a 30W charger might be in order. Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with any of the options in our story on the best fast iPhone chargers.
Both the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro support fast charging via USB PD 3.0. The former tops out at 18W, while the latter goes up to 23W. Any charger above those outputs that includes PD support should get you the fastest speeds on these devices.
Certain MediaTek-powered phones use the company’s Pump Express technology. The latest version, Pump Express 4.0, relies on 5A of current and is compliant with the USB PD 3.0 standard. Pump Express also supports a proprietary wireless charging standard in addition to regular Qi wireless charging. A typical PD adapter should get you the best experience here.
Motorola sells two types of chargers: Rapid Charging and TurboPower. For the most part, the company’s older phones (2021 and earlier) use Rapid Charging adapters, which offer 10W charging via micro USB. Motorola’s midrange and flagship phones can benefit from faster TurboPower chargers, which rely on USB-C and offer more power. We recommend you check the company’s website to find the best charger for your phone. There are several TurboPower options that range up to 125W, though only the Edge (2022) and the Edge+ (2023) support that adapter.
OnePlus uses a version of Oppo’s Voltage Open Loop Multi-step Constant-Current Charging (VOOC) standard, called SuperVooc. It bumps up the wired charging speed to 80W for the OnePlus 12. You just need to stick with the included charger to get that speed. OnePlus often sells faster chargers for its devices in markets outside the US. For example, the OnePlus 12 ships with a 125W charger in Europe.
Some phones with Qualcomm chips use the latest version of its fast charging standard, Quick Charge 5. It lets you completely recharge a 4,500mAh battery in just 15 minutes, supports up to 100W of power, and minimizes heat production. It originally launched in the Snapdragon 865 processor and remains a feature of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3. Just note that not all phone manufacturers choose to implement all the features of a chip in their devices, including Quick Charge 5. Chargers that support this standard aren’t readily available, either.
Older Samsung devices like the Galaxy S20 use the Adaptive Fast Charging standard. The latest version is called Super Fast Charging, which relies on USB PD 3.0. The Galaxy S24 Ultra and S24+ charge at up to 45W, though the smaller and more affordable S24 supports a slower rate of 25W. Look for a charger that exceeds the charging speed of your device and has PD.
Wireless charging is convenient, but it is often slower than wired charging. Most Qi chargers can get you 15W on modern Android phones, and 7.5W on older iPhones. However, MagSafe chargers support speeds of up to 15W on compatible iPhones. (Qi2 is on the way, which should eventually allow for even faster speeds.) Make sure whatever power adapter you plug into your wireless charger supplies enough power to reach these rates.
Some phones, including the OnePlus 12, offer much faster wireless charging. It supports speeds of 50W via the proprietary AirVooc wireless charging stand. With wireless charging, you’re trading speed for convenience.
For laptops, the fast charging situation is a bit different. USB Power Delivery support is a requirement if you want an adapter or portable power bank that can keep up with the demands of a high-powered device. As mentioned, Power Delivery 3.2 supports up to 240W, which should be enough to power most laptops even while you use them.
You might come across Gallium Nitride (or GaN) chargers at some point in your research. These tend to be smaller and more efficient than silicon-based alternatives. However, they too rely on the USB Power Delivery standard.
Want to spend even less time at an outlet? Here’s how to extend the battery life of your Android phone and iPhone. And be sure to check out our story on debunked battery myths.
(Ajay Kumar contributed to this story.)
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I’m a Mobile Analyst at PCMag, which means I cover wireless phones, plans, tablets, ereaders, and a whole lot more. I’ve always loved technology and have been forming opinions on consumer electronics since childhood. Prior to joining PCMag, I covered TVs and home entertainment at CNET, served as the tech and electronics reviews fellow at Insider, and began my career by writing laptop reviews as an intern at Tom’s Hardware. I am also a professional actor with credits in theater, film, and television.
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