Proprietary USB-C fast charging was once a necessary evil, now it’s just evil

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Your next smartphone probably won’t come with a charger in the box. I’m not just talking about expensive flagship devices here – we’ve noticed that a growing number of mid-range devices are following this trend. The Samsung Galaxy A53 and Nothing Phone 1, two popular budget choices for 2022, do not come with a charger. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the demise of the headphone jack, it’s that eventually more companies will follow suit.

Given this inevitability, it’s high time manufacturers abandoned proprietary charging protocols in favor of universal standards, and here’s why.

Our guide: How wired and wireless fast charging works

No (own) charger in the box: a worrying future?

Google 30W USB-C Power Adapter Standing on Wooden Bar

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

While Samsung and Nothing had some criticisms about buying the charger separately, admittedly many users can get by without buying one. This is because both companies rely on the universal USB Power Delivery standard for fast charging. Despite what the name would lead you to believe, Samsung Super Fast Charging is not a standard of its own. Instead, it is based on the USB-PD Programmable Power Supply (PPS) specification.

Practically speaking, you can use any PPS-compatible charger — even a third-party charger — to charge a modern Samsung device. However, the same is not true for many other smartphone brands, including Xiaomi, OnePlus and Oppo, just to name a few. These brands are at the forefront of fast charging technology for smartphones today, with their respective protocols supporting a whopping 150W of power. But if you’ve used a USB-PD charger with these devices, historically they’ve only drawn 18 or 27W from the wall.

Modern smartphones with patented charging can charge at lightning speed, but only support a paltry 27W via USB Power Delivery.

Needless to say, this difference is worrying. Most of us don’t have a SuperVOOC charger, so if Oppo stopped including chargers in the box, you’d have no choice but to buy one. You can usually mix and match chargers from OnePlus, Oppo and Realme, but that’s only because they’re all based on the same underlying technology. In contrast, USB Power Delivery has become almost universal these days and you will find it supported on everything from Macbooks to Bluetooth speakers.

Related: 100W, 150W, 240W? Wired charging has become pointless

This gap is widened by the fact that brands are now in a fierce race to achieve the fastest possible recharge times with each new generation. It is common to see new smartphones support twice as much charging power as their direct predecessor. For example, OnePlus jumped from 30W to 150W in just three years. While the brand is currently bundling chargers with new devices, what if that obligation ends?

Even if you have the proper charger of your own, it may be slower than what your new device supports. Then, if you upgrade to a new charger, the old one becomes practically useless as it won’t quickly charge your other devices. All in all, it’s a vicious circle. Not to mention the extra electronic waste it causes.

Why a universal charging stand makes sense

Belkin Boost Charge Dual USB C PD GaN Modes

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Based on everything we’ve discussed so far, it’s clear that proprietary charging technology has no place in a tech landscape that is increasingly moving towards interoperability.

Adopting a universal standard like USB Power Delivery won’t solve the USB-C fragmentation problem overnight, but it will at least allow us to share chargers between more devices. Many devices, such as laptops, already support 100W charging via USB-PD today. And the new 240W specification should make the standard even more ubiquitous in the future. To that end, USB-PD compatible chargers should become cheaper and cheaper as more and more devices support them.

Widespread adoption of USB Power Delivery will lead to more competition and lower prices.

Already today, for the price of a charging block from Samsung or Google, you could buy a third-party adapter that offers more charging power or multiple ports. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible in the proprietary charging world, where you have no choice but to spend $30 to $50 on a first-party adapter that might not even work with one of your other devices.

Our choices: The best wall chargers

The problem also extends well beyond the world of wall chargers. Portable power banks and car chargers do not support proprietary protocols. Worse, it’s also not always possible to find a first-party option. As with wall outlets, the charging power in these situations will often drop to 10W or 18W – unacceptable for most modern smartphone users.

Own charging: the beginning of the end?

Charging Oppo Phone with SuperVOOC

Harley Maranan / Android Authority

As much as I like to admit it, proprietary charging protocols will likely continue to exist – at least for the foreseeable future. Brands have long claimed that their respective charging technologies outperform the competition in maintaining battery health.

Earlier this year, Oppo claimed that the Battery Health Engine in the Find X5 Pro allowed the battery to sustain 1,600 charge cycles before losing 20% ​​of its capacity. Xiaomi also made a similar, albeit more conservative, claim when it debuted its HyperCharge fast charging technology.

Patented protocols may not disappear overnight due to battery health issues.

Indeed, you’ve probably heard countless times that battery health can deteriorate significantly without adequate precautions. Oppo says it has avoided this potential pitfall by using its own algorithm that constantly adjusts the charging current. It has also refined the chemistry of its lithium-ion batteries for longer life.

Related: 6 Common Battery Myths You Probably Believe

Even taking the health claims of batteries at first glance, it’s unclear why these measures cannot be implemented alongside universal standards such as USB-PD. After all, the latest specification for programmable USB power supplies already supports variable voltage and current levels.

However, if proprietary protocols are really needed, the least manufacturers can do is improve compatibility with open standards. We’ve seen a handful of moves in this direction, such as Oppo’s line of mini flash chargers with support for both SuperVOOC and USB-PD PPS charging. While the company hasn’t shown any inclination to sell these outside of China yet, OnePlus seems to have taken the first step.

The OnePlus 10T comes with a 150W SuperVOOC charger that also supports USB-PD, up to 45W. While it’s far from the 65W (or even 100W) many laptops require, hopefully this step is a sign that the days of proprietary single-use chargers are numbered.

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