Charging a regular smartphone or tablet usually takes 2 or 3 hours, a time in which the device has to remain bound to a wall socket or to another power source. Theoretically, this time-frame is seen as unproductive and sometimes irritating by someone who wishes to leave the house with their lawful companion at their side. That’s why most people choose to charge a gadget while they are sleeping or, when the situation gets really irritating, opt for an external battery to avoid being parted from the phone.
The good news is that all these portable devices can be charged faster, in most cases. Depending on the manufacturer, model and the operating system deployed, different methods can be applied to boost the power transmitted by the source and decrease charging times significantly, without major downsides.
How to reduce charging times for mobile devices
There is no wonder application or magic trick that will boost our charging output and decrease the total time (maybe wireless, who knows), but we do know a couple of practices that should do well-enough. Before we start preaching, let’s first explain how charging works and share regular advices.
While at home, people choose to charge devices through a dedicated wall charger, that’s specifically designed to bring high amounts of power directly to the battery. As you may hint, this is the fastest method to power a smartphone, but some downsides exist, too. Mainly, the battery and the microUSB port are designed to handle a certain amount of power, which sometimes may not be offered by the power brick at constant rates. Hence, our first mean of optimization is already spotted.
In order to decrease charging times when using a conventional wall plug or even a power brick if you have a tablet, make sure the charger is a high-output one. Some models may supply less power than the actual device can handle and this may dramatically increase charging times. I personally know of bad-manufactured iPhone chargers (not originals, of course) which may take even 5 hours to completely replenish a device, when the actual process should not take more than two hours.
Trying the reverse tactic may also work, by replacing your original charger with a higher output model. The bad part about this practice is that you must be very careful when choosing the replacement, and verify what kind of power your device can accept. Depending on the manufacturer and the model, these may vary, but they are usually found on the back of the battery and on the sides of the charger. In the wall-plugged world, there is nothing more that can be done. As expected, this changes when it comes to USB.
Charging faster through USB ports
Not all USB chargers, connectors and cables are born the same. There are three USB variants that one computer can come with: standard 1.0, 2.0 or 3.0. The first standard was released back in 1996 and can be found on legacy computers and it was basically the foundation of what we have today. In matters of power supply, this version can transfer up to 500 mA of current, charging mobile devices pretty slow.
USB 2.0, the second version which appeared in 2000, managed to increase transfer speeds but not the flow of current, for a normal port at least. Last but not least, USB 3.0, also known as Super Speed, has managed to increase this amount up to 900 mA, almost halving charging times.
As you may have already figured, depending on the type of USB in which the smartphone or tablet is connected, charging times can greatly vary. A good practice is to always check your laptop / computer ports before plugging another device in, a procedure which can easily be done by analyzing the specifications list or by taking a quick look around the port. Unfortunately, there’s no official labeling rule and these ports technically seem the same.
Besides USB generation, the type of port can also influence charging. Currently, there are three types of connectors you should know about:
- Standard downstream port
- Charging downstream port
- Dedicated charging port
While the first two can be found on regular computers, laptops, so on and so forth, the last port type is used only by dummy wall chargers (those that use an wall adapter to connect to a plain USB cable). The difference between these three types is exclusively the power specification, where a Standard downstream port can offer up to 500mA in USB 1.0 and USB 2.0, while USB 3.0 can offer up to 900 mA (just like explained above).
The charging downstream and dedicated charging ports can boost this mark up to 1500 mA, so it’s recommended to always verify which port is the charging one on your computer, before attaching. Sadly, manufacturers have not introduced a way of labeling them. Moreover, if you have the chance of connecting to a dedicated charging port trough a dummy wall charger don’t miss the occasion, as they can even break the rules of conventional standards and go up to 2100 mA. Luckily, any modern device is prepared for this kind of charge (actually, up to 5000 mA) so there are no risks of damage, whatsoever.
As for USB hubs, those that pair several devices under the same connection, try to avoid them as much as possible. Usually, they are not rated for increased intensity per USB port, so the power supplied can be pretty low.
Other means of Speeding up
There are also other tricks of speeding up the charging process; turning the smartphone off while doing this is perhaps one of the basic. The theory behind this trick is that the charger supplies a limited amount of data, which is used to charge the battery and to power the device. If the last one is shut down, the whole juice is distributed directly to the battery so this one can reach its maximum level more quickly. The bad part is obvious, of course.
Another tip would be to use a two-USB-port Y-cable, which would aggregate the power of two USB computer ports and serve it all to a single device (here’s a good example on Amazon). But if you want to truly go over the edge, here are a couple of tools that might help you:
Use a computer application
Asus, the famous manufacturer who made Nexus 7, also knows a thing or two about charging. They developed a free utility software by the name of Ai Charger, that can come in hand for those with a portable Apple device (iPhone, iPod, iPad). The program is not pretentious at all and after installation, users can only see a red X mark until they plug a device, when the sign is replaced by a charge indicator.
Practically, Ai Charger manages to squeeze around 1000 mA of power from a normal USB port, nearly doubling the 500 mA mark seen in most configurations. Depending on the device used, this margin can grow even further, as Matthew Hunt explains with the charge below. The software is specifically good when you have only your USB cable and a host device to do the charging. As seen from experiments, the maximum output outed by Ai Charger reaches the limit of conventional wall chargers, meaning around 2000 mA. Although the boosting method is not leaked, users have reported its success in various occasions.
Curiously, Ai Charger is not limited to Asus boards only and may work on other manufacturers as well. Moreover, MSI has a similar service called SuperCharger which is also targeted on Apple devices. You can try the application with Android devices as well and see if you get lucky. One XDA member managed to boost power for his Samsung Galaxy S3, a fact verified with a current monitoring application.
Mess with the wires
Once again from the fields of XDA we found an interesting guide which shows people how to cut and modify conventional USB cables, so that the host laptop / PC would be tricked into believing the cable attached is not an actual USB. Although this method presents quite a risk, because there are no certifications or thorough experiments to vouch for it, its maker claims it has been using the tweak quite for some time.
If you want to take it for a spin head out to the official thread and follow the instructions (which are also summarized in the picture above). Be careful, as once that cable has been severed, it must be properly insulated and cannot be relied on for tethering or file synchronization.
Buy an USB adapter
Those who have already looked into this problem have surely heard of ChargeDr, a pricy USB adapter launched this year that can boost the power output of regular ports. Pictured above, ChargeDr looks like a simple USB stick and has the same size. Magically, through an unspecified method, the adapter can increase the power output to 2100 mA, when it’s plugged to a phone or tablet (Apple gadgets included).
Practically, by increasing the USB maximum charge limit to nearly how much an wall outlet can supply, charging times should be halved or even four times as shorter. ChargeDr is convenient to carry and can easily fit in a pocket. The bad part is its price, $30, plus the fact that it does not work with devices that come with non-conventional USB ports, like the Nexus 7.
Use a Mobile App
After taking a quick look around the market, I’ve found a couple applications that were bragged as fast chargers, but only some actually managed to pull the job. I’ve chosen to share only one title today, which can be found on Google Play’s store and that’s compatible only with Android. If you have an iOS variant that works, please share it in the comment section below. As for the app in question, I give you Fast Charge, by Mathew Winters.
Working only with rooted terminals that have a custom kernel with fast-charge support, this free Android application is quite pretentious, but it’s by far the most flexible mean from this list. Once these requirements are fulfilled, the software manages to increase the voltage transmitted towards the terminal, while monitoring for health parameters, such as temperature.
Once you’ve downloaded the app, you need to run it and enable Fast Charge Mode. After a second or so, plug in the device and you’ll see a small analysis showing on the main screen, indicating that the connection has been established successfully. For those curious, a voltage of 5V can be translated as 2100 mA, the maximum supplied through a port of this nature.