What Are The Different Types of Charging Cables?
Do you have a designated drawer or box that all of your extra cables go in? I know I do, and it is cluttered with everything from old USB chargers to HDMI cables and power cords for devices that you probably don’t even have anymore. You could sort through all of these, but if you don’t know what you are looking at, this task tends to lead back to the same drawer with the same cables in it and you are back at square one. This guide is here to be a reference to help you distinguish different charging cables and their uses.
Mobile Device Chargers
In the earlier days of cell phones, it was common to have different types of charging cables. These vary depending on the specific model of a cell phone. Over time, manufacturers of these devices have slowly been moving towards more universal charging cables. These universal charging cables will work with multiple devices. Even better is that many other devices such as cameras, wireless headphones, VR headsets, and even some tablets and laptops have begun adapting the same chargers. This means that if you have a charging cable break, you are more likely to have one from another device that will work in its place. Here are the 3 most common chargers for mobile devices.
USB-C is slowly becoming one of the most popular charging cables. Even Apple has changed their newer iPads to connect with a USB-C connection and they have replaced standard USB-A ports on their MacBooks with the new USB-C ports. Although not all of the companies have made the transition yet, USB-C can function for both ends of the cable. You can have a device with a USB-C charging port, and then have a USB outlet on your wall charger and flip the cable either way for connection. Many of the devices using USB-C still have one end of the cable with a USB-A connection. This is likely to allow people to continue using their USB-A wall chargers, car outlets, laptops, desktops, and many other devices that have not yet switched to USB-C. You will find that many of the newer Samsung, Motorola, and Google devices have switched to this USB-C charging port and I expect to see many others follow suit in the near future.
Lightning is the term for the small, almost squared shape charging plug that Apple has been using in recent years for their iPhones and iPads. The lightning plug is unique to Apple devices only but is quite popular due to the popularity of Apple devices. There has long been criticism of the original charging cable that comes with Apple devices because of its lack of durability and longevity. Fortunately, Apple has allowed third-party manufacturing companies to become MFi certified to produce Apple compatible lightning charging cables. This has allowed more durable charging cables to enter the market but also opened the gateway for numerous counterfeit products to enter the market.
People have been speculating that Apple will do away with the lightning cable in the near future. It is rumored that the iPhone 12 will still have the lightning port. The new iPads have already been relieved of the lightning port and replaced with a USB-C port.
Micro-USB was once expected to be the universal charging style for all cell phones. For a while, this was mostly the case, with just a few outliers such as Apple. The Micro-USB charging style was designed to replace the former Mini-USB that was popular for a while but was ultimately too bulky of a charging tip. Micro-USB gained such popularity, that it became widely used in a variety of devices outside of cell phones. Many cameras, tablets, headphones, speakers, GPS devices, gaming controllers, and practically anything portable with a battery utilized the functions of the Micro-USB charging cables. Slowly, devices are transitioning to the USB-C instead of the Micro-USB. For now, Micro-USB is still the most popular charging cable for mobile devices outside of cell phones.
As briefly mentioned above, Mini-USB was a popular charging cable style from roughly 2000-2010. This was phased out as the Micro-USB cable came into play. The Micro USB became a more desirable option due to the slim nature of the required charging port, allowing companies to make the devices smaller. Occasionally, you can still find an old camera or tablet that utilizes Mini-USB, but they are becoming rarer as newer devices are replacing the older ones.
3 Different Forms of Charging
When it comes to choosing the right method of charging your device, there are several options available to choose from. Most people are going to automatically think of a traditional charging cable where you insert the cable into the device’s charging port. This is by far the most common way to charge your devices, but not always the best suited. The great thing about technology is that people are constantly developing ways to improve our lives and the way you charge your devices is not exempt from this. Here are the three most popular ways to charge your device.
Looking at the different types of charging cables, the traditional charging cable, as mentioned above, is by far the most common and widely used method of charging cell phones and other portable devices. Being the most common style, there are a variety of options offering different cable lengths, colors, composition materials, and charging tip styles to fit your needs. With these many options, you often end up with that junk drawer full of cables. There are so many options and every device you buy is going to add another manufacturer’s cable to the mix. Also, many of these manufacturer’s cables that come with the devices are not either too short or of poor quality, so you end up needing to buy more. On the plus side, being the most common, it is usually pretty easy to charge your device at a friend’s house, or at the office if you forget your cable because they are so common and easy to find.
Another thing to note with the traditional charging cable is that they tend to cause wear and tear on your devices. Have you had the dog run by and catch your cable or tripped over your own charging cable? This causes a sharp jerk directly to the charging port of your device which can cause lasting damage to the device. The same applies to using your device while charging it and having the cable pull to one side or the other. Over time, the charging port will stretch and wear, creating loose connections and making it difficult to charge your device. Personally, I have replaced the charging ports in 3 of my phones. It is fairly difficult to do on your own, and rather expensive to pay someone to do.
Pros: Most common, easily accessible, variety of options
Cons: Wear out faster, damaged charging ports on devices
The magnetic charging cable is by far my favorite way to charge my devices. The end of the cable is a magnetic connection point. The cables have several charging tips available to fit with almost every device. The charging tips included are Micro-USB, Lightning, and USB-C. Simply pop a charging tip into each of your devices, and you can charge them all from a single cable. One of my favorite parts is that leaving the tips in your devices eliminates the stress on the charging port. The magnet serves as a breakaway point between the phone and cable. This disconnects when the cable is pulled before it will cause damage to your device. You can even purchase extra tips if you have a large number of devices that you want to be able to charge. This is very helpful if, for example, you have an iPhone, and your significant other has an Android. Then you can both charge your phones using the same cable.
There are also some limitations to magnetic charging cables. The magnets can pick up debris if they are used in dirty areas such as a garage or outdoors. This can easily be cleaned with canned air or a soft cloth but can cause a hassle. Another point is that some people think the cables disconnect too easily from their devices. I personally don’t mind reattaching the cable after moving the device, knowing that this is protecting the charging port. That’s just my personal opinion. Here is another article that talks about magnetic charging cables further: 7 Reasons Why You Need a Magnetic Charging Cable.
Pros: Saves devices’ charging ports, cross compatibility, durability
Cons: Can pick up magnetic debris, may disconnect easier
Wireless charging is new to many of us, but the technology is not new. Nikola Tesla invented wireless charging in the late 19th century. The technology had very limited application until recently when companies have been finding ways to integrate it into mobile devices. The downside with this technology is that not all manufacturers have gotten on board with the increased expense of adding the technology to their devices. This means that you have to make sure your device is capable of wireless charging before purchasing a wireless charger. Another thing to mention is that wireless charging, even with the new 15 Watt wireless chargers, is not very fast. It’s great to charge your phone overnight while you are sleeping, but if you are looking for a quick boost, you will still want to plug it in. Depending on the strength of the wireless charger, you may find difficulty charging your phone with a case on it as well. Some cases are too thick to allow the magnetic field to charge your phone.
One great thing about wireless charging is how it is catching on across many industries. Many newer cars have wireless charging built into specific locations of the vehicle. When you get in the car, set the phone on the center console and it will start charging automatically. I have also seen new couches that have a phone holder in between the seats that provides wireless charging. Some bars are even integrating the technology into their bar tops. These allow you to charge your phone by simply placing it on the bar. These wireless options also prevent the wear and tear on your charging ports that traditional cables cause. This is a great technology, but it is held back by a lack of compatibility and charging speed.
Pros: Easy on and off for charging, multiple devices
Cons: slow charging times, may not work with cases
Importance of Voltage, Wattage, and Amperage
When choosing between different types of charging cables, charging speed is an important factor. Many cables claim to be fast charging, but what does that mean. How can you tell if a charging cable is fast charging? Looking at the specs, you can often find the amperage and voltage specifications listed. The amperage is ultimately how much power the charging cable can handle. For most devices, a 3 Amp charge is considered fast charging. These devices can handle the 3 Amps, but the manufacturer’s cables that they provide will often only handle 1.5 or 2.4 Amps. On some devices such as the iPad Pro, you will see a 5 Amp charger, but these are relatively rare. If you are looking for a cable to charge your phone fast, you will want a 3 Amp charging cable.
It is also worth noting that just because your cable can handle a 3-Amp charge, does not mean that it will automatically fast charge. The cable will only push as much power to the phone as the power source allows it to. This power source may be your wall charging brick, the USB port in your car, or the port on your laptop. If your wall brick can only output 1.5 Amps, then your charging cable will only push 1.5 Amps to the device you are trying to charge. Smaller “cube” shaped wall chargers tend to be of lower amperage. Larger “box style” wall chargers can often handle the 3 Amp fast charging. The specs can usually be found on the bottom of the plastic casing for your wall charger.
What Can be Learned?
For something as simple as charging your phone, I know I just made it much more complicated. Now you know more about your options and what to look for though. You may have even learned about a different type of charging option that you didn’t know existed before. Personally, I prefer the magnetic chargers for their ease of use and longevity of my device.