Oppo SuperVOOC 240W Fast Charging Close Up

Kris Carlon / Android Authority

As you’ve no doubt noticed, Mobile World Congress 2022 featured a few announcements of fast-charging products. From Oppo’s 240W SuperVooc concept to the 100W charging Honor Magic 4 Pro, it’s becoming rarer to find a new smartphone announcement that doesn’t focus on charging power in one form or another. But the sheer amount of power involved becomes so astronomical that it loses all meaning for experts and consumers alike. Of course, brands hope we’ll follow the ‘bigger numbers should be better’ philosophy, but battery technology is so rarely well understood and wattage alone tells customers virtually nothing important about charging their phone.

Song obsessions are a perennial plague for the tech industry, whether it’s the historic megapixel wars, audio bit depth battles, or today’s fascination with charging power. Eventually it will fade into the background. But before we can put this latest trend to rest, let me give you three good reasons why you should ditch this fast-charging obsession.

High power charging never lasts

RavPower PD Pioneer GaN Charging

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Wattage is a very arbitrary metric to focus on when it comes to charging and it’s very easy to play fast and loose with this term to look better than the competition. For example, the wattage for plug and telephone is always different due to conversion and heat loss. 100 W at the plug may be only 80 W or less at the phone. Don’t rely on comparing metrics between brands because who knows what they’re measuring.

But more importantly, consumers need to understand that very high payload only applies to limited periods of the early charge cycle. If your battery is more than a quarter full, don’t expect to take advantage of the advertised ultra-high power levels. After testing numerous fast charging technologies from Oppo, Huawei, Samsung and others, I can tell you that the power levels mentioned in marketing materials are almost always delivered to the phone for a few minutes, and increasingly less than that.

As you can see from the chart above, fast-charging phones like the OnePlus 9 Pro and Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra hold their peak speeds for three or four minutes. Enough to quickly bring the battery to about 20% before power is reduced to lower levels. However, the 80 W Oppo Find X5 Pro and 45 W Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra do not even hold their full power for one minute. 240W phones will no doubt be lucky to maintain their peak power for more than a few seconds.

Very high power levels only last a few minutes, if not seconds.

As such, the peak power levels quoted by manufacturers tell very little about how fast a phone charges. Average power would be more useful, but of course that will be much lower and wouldn’t play into the number marketing game. Metrics like time to 50% and time to full charge are much better meters to use than wattage. But even here, there’s room to play fast and loose, and these numbers still don’t tell you much about what happens when you plug in your phone with a partial charge, which is a widespread charging habit.

When 100% Isn’t 100%: How Long Does It Really Take to Fully Charge Your Phone?

Battery capacity and life are more important than faster charging

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Fast Charging

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Pushing more and more power into your smartphones involves compromises. For starters, extreme heat and high currents are bad for batteries in the long run and can shorten their lifespan. To counter this problem, Oppo and others rate their fast-charging batteries at 80% of their initial capacity after 800 full charge cycles. That’s a little over two years worth of daily full cycles, not great if you plan on keeping your phone for nearly half a decade. Oppo’s latest Battery Health Engine, found in the Find X5 Pro, improves this rating to 1,600 cycles before battery degradation drops below 80%. That’s more than four years of charging, which is much better. However, not every manufacturer is as transparent about their lifespan estimates, and cheaper implementations certainly won’t last as long as the best in the industry. Buyer beware.

Batteries that can be charged quickly have a smaller capacity, which means a shorter battery life.

High C-rate batteries built to withstand faster charging currents are more expensive and have a smaller capacity for a given size. In other words, a phone that charges faster should free up more space for the battery. That’s precious space that could be used for a larger camera sensor, processor cooling, improved haptics, or simply result in a thicker phone. That’s right; faster charging can also compromise other phone features. If that physical space isn’t available for a high-C-rate battery, you’ll have to settle for a smaller battery capacity.

Ask yourself: would you rather have your phone charge 10 minutes faster, or would you rather have an hour longer screen on time? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Universal standards surpass patented technology

Aukey Omnia 100W 4 Port PD Wall Charger Ports 2

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

One of the biggest problems with super-fast charging is that they’re all based on proprietary technology, meaning you’ll only get the fastest speeds if you use specific plugs. That may be fine at home, but it is less ideal for traveling, charging in the car or when using a power bank. A 100W phone may only charge with 10W from your battery, which could eventually take several hours instead of minutes to reach 50% of its capacity.

See also: How to choose the right smartphone charger

Admittedly, manufacturers are increasingly making sure their proprietary plugs work well with USB Power Delivery and Quick Charge gadgets as well. Your 150W SuperVooc plug is therefore suitable for charging your phone and USB-PD laptop. But not all manufacturers support these standards, and this does not solve the problem of slow charging of batteries and the like.

You cannot quickly charge your phone with 100W via a battery pack or car adapter.

Ultimately, fragmentation is not a good thing for the tech ecosystem as a whole. Consumers should not be pulling the right plug for the right gadget when universal standards are readily available. After all, a big part of the drive for USB-C was to tackle the mess of proprietary standards and create simplified plug-and-play experiences for consumers. Likewise, e-waste is a growing problem, and outdated chargers contribute significantly to landfills. Patented chargers that you may no longer use after you upgrade your smartphone contribute to this problem.

This is not to say that fast charging is not a valuable and important feature for modern smartphones – no one wants to wait all day for their phone to charge again. However, you don’t need 100W, let alone 240W of power to be back on your feet in a few minutes. There are also some rarely discussed drawbacks of fast charging technology, such as those discussed here, that consumers need to be made aware of in order to make informed purchasing decisions. It’s time to put an end to this fascination with sky-high numbers and focus on what matters most: the consumer experience in general.

Also read: The Best Wall Chargers – A Buyer’s Guide

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This post 100W, 150W, 240W? Wired charging has become pointless

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