This is a carousel. Use Next and Previous buttons to navigate
Ankers’ 737 GaNPrime charger fits in your hand and is capable out putting out 120 watts of DC power.
The Anker 737 GaNPrime charger can charge three devices at once.
The Anker 737 GaNPrime charger has a total output of 120 watts. Its plug prongs fold up into the back. (Photo courtesy Anker)
If you’ve bought a new smartphone in the past few years, you’ve surely noticed something’s missing: A charger.
In 2020, Apple quit including its ubiquitous, white charging block in iPhone boxes. Samsung mocked the move and then, just a few months later, the South Korean company also stopped providing chargers.
Manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung say doing so cuts back on electronic waste as most folks already have a bunch of chargers. But you and I know the decision really is a way to cut expenses. Plus, device makers can make a little spare change selling chargers as an accessory.
Now, you may indeed own a charger or two that works with a new phone, but if you’ve had it a long time, Old Faithful is going to take a while to fuel up the big batteries in newer phones. Modern batteries can be charged faster – in some cases, much faster – but you’ll need a more muscular charger that can handle it.
But choosing one is not as simple as it used to be. Different phones charge at different speeds, requiring chargers with certain specifications. And some phones use different charging standards in order to charge batteries in the fastest or most efficient way.
This is more of an issue in the Android world, where there are many brands with differing requirements. With Apple’s iPhones, matching a charger to the device is a little simpler, even if you don’t buy Apple-branded chargers.
First, some basics to keep in mind (and here I’m focusing on wired charging, not wireless):
Wattage. Charging power is expressed in watts. The original Apple USB charger for iPhones charges at 5 watts. Today’s modern chargers put out a lot more. For example, the last charger Apple included with its smartphones was an 18-watt charger that came with the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max models. And the recently released OnePlus 10t comes with a 160-watt charger that outputs 125 watts to the phone. The 10t’s battery can go from zero to 100 percent in less than 20 minutes with the included charger (which I can confirm is real – I’ll have a review soon!).
Smartphone makers typically show charging wattage on their specification pages. For example, Samsung says its Galaxy S22 Ultra supports up to 45-watt charging, while the standard S22 supports 25 watts.
Connections. Nearly all modern chargers now come with a USB-C connection – the smaller, symmetrical port that supports higher power and faster charging than the old-school, wider USB-A port. On Android devices, you’ll need a cable with USB-C plugs on both ends and that can support the wattage on the charger (See my column about USB-C from May for details. IPhones still use Apple’s proprietary Lightning port, but a USB-C-to-Lightning cable comes in the box. The company is expected to move to a USB-C iPhone connection next year.
Standards. You should be able to connect any quality charger to any smartphone using the right cable and charge the battery. But for the best result, the charger should support the standard handled by the phone. For example, many newer phones support Power Delivery 3.0, along with a protocol called PPS. Again, check the specs for your phone and shop accordingly.
Note that charging a smartphone, laptop or tablet too quickly can age its battery prematurely. Most brand-name electronics have the ability to regulate the speed with which they’re charged, allowing rapid charging at the start and then slowing as the battery approaches 100 percent.
One big warning about choosing a charger: Don’t cheap out! Buying a very inexpensive, no-name charger could be a recipe for disaster, as a defective or poorly made one can damage a device’s electronics. Stick with brand names, such as Belkin, Anker, RAVPower, Ugreen, Apple, Samsung, Spigen, Aukey and others.
One of the most interesting new developments in the charging landscape is the use of a material called gallium nitride, or GaN. Chargers that use GaN are smaller, more efficient and run cooler than traditional chargers built around silicon. For the moment, they cost a little more, but their benefits are worth it. And prices are dropping quickly.
Seeking to carry fewer charging bricks and cubes in my travel gear bag, I recently bought the Anker 737 GaNPrime charger from Anker. It has a total output of 120 watts spread between 2 USB-C and one USB-A port.
It’s much smaller than the charging brick that came with my 2021, 14-inch MacBook Pro, but it can charge that notebook, my iPad Air 4 and my iPhone 14 Pro Max at the same time. It has a list price of $95, but is often discounted at amazon.com. (The 65-watt version, the Anker 735, lists at $60.)
The 737 is small-ish – about 3.2 inches long by 1.7 inches tall by 1.5 inches wide. But it feels dense, at 6.6 ounces. In fact, its weight can pull it out of some wall sockets when cables are connected, so it comes with a silicone stabilizer that mounts at its base. It charges my MacBook Pro quickly, noticeably faster than the 67-watt charger that came with it. It also stays significantly cooler.
The 737, as do most chargers with multiple ports, distributes wattage intelligently based on the various devices plugged in at the time. The two USB-C ports are capable of outputting 100 watts individually, according to Anker. If devices are plugged into both, their total output will be 120 watts. And the single USB-A port maxes out at 22.5 watts.
Wanting more information about GaN chargers, I talked to Yuji Zhao, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice University. His WIDE Lab at Rice specializes in studying materials such as GaN for use in electronics. As with silicon, it’s used as semiconductor material.
“(GaN) is highly efficient, with very low loss of current,” Zhao said, referring to the conversion chargers make turning AC input into DC output. “The resistance of the material is very small.”
Electrons also move around more easily inside GaN, making the chargers capable of faster speeds even though they’re smaller. That also helps them run cooler.
Researchers such as Zhao are exploring other uses for semiconductors made of the material. His group is working with NASA and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on GaN processors that could power spacecraft exploring extremely hot locations, such as Mercury, where its proximity to the sun results in temperatures of 500 degrees Celsius.
More down to earth, research is being done on using GaN to more quickly recharge electric car batteries.
“You might be able to charge your Tesla in as little as five minutes, which is about how long it takes to put gasoline in your car,” Zhao said.
Expect to hear a lot more about GaN in the near future.
Dwight Silverman worked for the Houston Chronicle in a variety of roles for more than 30 years, serving as a technology reporter and columnist; manager of HoustonChronicle.com; social media manager; online news editor; and assistant State Desk Editor.
He has returned as a freelancer to continue his long-running technology column. You can email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter twitter.com/dsilverman.
Larhonda Biggles is still seeking justice for her son years after his death at the Harris County jail, which led to the firing of nearly a dozen guards.
No charger in your new smartphone's box? Here's how to choose the right one. – Houston Chronicle
This is a carousel. Use Next and Previous buttons to navigate