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The trouble with cheap chargers

 

Have you ever noticed that your smartphone loses charge over a long car journey, even when you’ve had it plugged in to the cigarette lighter? This happens when you’re using the wrong charger – one that provides too little power to your device.

In this article, we’ll reveal how you can find the right charger for your device, and two more things you can do to ensure that your device charges as quickly as possible.

Terminology – amps, milliamps and amperage
First off let’s explain some terms.

  • An amp is a measure of how much electrical charge is passing through a point in a given time.
  • The higher the number of amps the faster your device can charge.
  • The abbreviation for amp is A.
  • There are also milliamps which have the abbreviation mA.
  • 1 amp is equal to 1000 milliamps.
  • The amount of amps supported by a given device is called its amperage.

Got it? Right, on we go.

Make sure you’re using the right charger

A charger* is a device that re-energises your mobile device’s battery. For simplicity’s sake, at Mobile Fun we use the term to encompass both the charging cable and the charger itself (which sits between the cable and the power source), as these are typically sold as a one piece item.

Chargers usually come with one of three standard connectors – mini USB, micro USB, and Apple 30 pin.


Mini USB is found in older devices like sat navs, cameras and older phones. Its connector is shaped a bit like a trapezoid.

Micro USB is a newer connector, which is found on most smartphones, tablets and e-readers produced today. It is wider and flatter than mini USB, like a squashed semicircle.

Apple’s 30 pin connector is used for its iPod, iPhone and iPad lines. It is a thin rectangle, almost three times the width of micro USB.

When you’re buying a charger, it’s important to get the right kind of connector for your device.

Charging Rates

Charge rate of common gadgets

The important thing to realise is that different chargers can charge at very different rates, despite having the same connector. Bigger and more powerful devices will require chargers that operate at a higher amount of milliamps.

For example, a small iPod Nano might require 500 mA (0.5A) to charge, a medium-size iPhone will require 1100 mA (1.1A), and a large iPad will require 2100 mA (2.1A). If you try to charge an iPad using an iPhone charger, you will find that it charges much more slowly or doesn’t charge at all!

The other way around isn’t as much of a problem. If you try to charge an iPhone (1.1A) using an iPad charger (2.1A), then the iPhone will just charge at 1.1A, although it might get a little hotter than normal. Even if you charge an iPod Nano (0.5A) with an iPad charger (2.1A), nothing bad will happen.

If you buy a new charger, it’s important to ensure that you get one that provides at least as much amperage as your device needs. On Mobile Fun, this information should be in the title of each product.

Maximum power available from each source

Power Sources

Once you’ve got the right charger for your gadget, the next consideration is the power source. While most outputs provide enough power, some – like the USB port on a computer – won’t provide enough, even if you’re using the perfect charger.

If you’re using a wall socket, there’s more than enough power on tap to charge any mobile device – up to 13A. It’s a similar situation in a car’s cigarette lighter socket, which typically provides up to 12A.

USB ports that you’d find on a computer are a little more complicated. Standard USB ports will only provide 500 mA, but there are also special high power USB ports that provide up to 1500 mA. However, it’s difficult to know which is which at a glance.

Generally, the most important thing to remember is to use wall outlets and cigarette sockets when you can, and USB as a last resort.

Cables

There’s one last little thing that can put a hamper on full power charging is using a dodgy or cheap cable. While the USB cables that come with modern smartphones are good enough, some generic micro USB cables can’t tell the difference between a wall socket (AC power) and a USB port. If you’re plugging in your smartphone to the wall or a car charger and it still reads as USB, you’ll be limited to just 500 mAh – about half of the power that you should be getting. If this happens, you need to replace your cable or charger with a better one.

Summary

To ensure that your device charges at the fastest possible rate, there are two things you should do:

  1. Use a charger that provides the amperage your device needs.
  2. Use the highest power socket available – wall or car sockets first, then USB.

Examples

The Avantree is a capable 3.1A car charger with two USB ports, allowing simultaneous charging of a phone and a tablet at full speed.

Xqisit 1200 mA Micro USB Car Charger. This micro USB car charger provides 1.2A, enough for smartphones (1.0A) and some tablets.

1000 mA Capdase Ultimate Charger Pack. 1.0A output is enough for smartphones and smaller devices, and can be used anywhere.

Naztech Stealth 1000mA Micro USB Car Charger with extra USB port. This car charger provides 1A, enough for two smaller devices like Kindles or Bluetooth headsets.

Micro USB 1000 mA Mains Charger. Provides 1A via a micro USB lead and one USB port, perfect for one phone or two smaller gadgets.

Compact 1200 mA Mains Charger. USB mains charger provides 1.2A, enough for all smartphones.

Cygnett 2100 mA Apple Charger. Can power two iPhones / iPods or a single iPad with 2.1A.

Naztech 3100 mA Dual USB Car Charger. This provides 3.1A, meaning it can charge an iPad (2.1A) and iPhone (1.1A) simultaneously.

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