Fast charging is a point of contention among smartphone owners. The new USB Type-C standard aims to create a unified standard with Power Delivery. Qualcomm’s expensive Quick Charge, or proprietary solutions like Samsung Adaptive Fast Charge, Huawei SuperCharge and OnePlus Dash, would then be rendered obsolete. Let's take a closer look and compare these standards.
Fast charging: Not bad per se
Chargers have become smart. Over the past several years, the microcontrollers of batteries and chargers have significantly improved. Components communicate with each other and constantly negotiate the ideal voltage and current so that the battery doesn’t get too hot or prematurely age. At the same time, the charging rate is able to be increased, allowing for several hours of battery life after charging for a few minutes. The USB Implementer’s Forum has adopted the Power Delivery standard for the Type-C port specifically for this reason. It’s a costless, royalty-free and universally compatible alternative to the standards of smartphone manufacturers and the chip giant Qualcomm. A Power Delivery charger charges all Type-C smartphones quickly and gently. Liz Nardozza, Press Spokesperson for USB-IF explains:
“In USB Power Delivery, connected ports negotiate the voltage, current, and direction of current flow via the CC (communications channel) pin in the USB cable. The mechanism functions irrespective of other USB methods with which power is being negotiated. You can find more details in the USB PD 3.0 specification.”
USB Power Delivery is an open industry standard that can be used royalty-free. However, the license is subject to a few standards for companies that wish to adopt USB 3.0.
In its Compatibility Definition for Android 7.1, Google has denoted Power Delivery as STRONGLY RECOMMENDED. The next step for Android O could be making that a MUST. If manufacturers fail to comply, then they cannot update their devices to Android O. And what would come next? Nardozza explains:
"It’s up to OEMs to demonstrate their willingness to implement USB PD and eliminate proprietary standards. USB-IF’s PD is a solution with many benefits and sees numerous advantages in an open industry standard for fast charging, among them...
- No licensing fee
- Less electronic waste worldwide, since consumers would not have to purchase as many charging accessories
- Ease of use: Chargers work with all manufacturers, so that consumers can replace them with alternatives as often as they wish
- OEMs save money on developing, manufacturing and storage, since the open standard reduces the amount of different chargers - Global support: IEC for Europe, CCSA for China (negotiations underway)
You might have noticed when charging your phone with a friend's charger that it can sometimes be slower than charging with your own. But, uniform standards will fix that - if only smartphone manufacturers would go along with it.
Then what does Qualcomm do better with Quick Charge?
Of course, we asked Qualcomm what’s better about its Quick Charge solution. Credit must be given to Qualcomm for creating an important technological foundation. Qualcomm brought up pain points and brought to light many weaknesses in the current USB standard.
Quick Charge 2.0 was the first to surpass the former limit of five volts. Higher voltages would become possible without damaging the battery. Thanks to the increase to nine volts, the impedance between cables, connectors, PMICs, PCBs and a number of additional components could be reduced, explained a Qualcomm spokesperson. Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 introduced INOV technology, which works out the ideal charging voltage between the charger and battery. Furthermore, Quick Charge uses AICL to work out the ideal current. Automatic Power Source Detection (APSD) helps the battery identify the charger and adjust the incoming current flow accordingly; helpful in a world with a hundred different chargers.
As you can easily see, quite a few of these technologies are now incorporated into Power Delivery. So, what’s the point of purchasing an additional fee-based licensed standard when the included Type-C port already charges quickly and carefully and other technologies become obsolete as incompatible chargers disappear?
How do PD and Quick Charge 4 work together?
Quick Charge 4 is compatible with Power Delivery, which raises the question of what Quick Charge 4 brings to the table. Power Delivery is already proficient in technologies for negotiating current and voltage. Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4 can intervene to take control with regard to the device’s so-called thermal budget; in other words: It makes sure that the smartphone does not get too hot when charging. The fact that Quick Charge and PD can co-exist is due to the fact that Power Delivery is solely a protocol for negotiating voltage and current. Quick Charge 4 has simply learned to speak this language, but does the same thing as Quick Charge 3 with a few upgrades. Thus, QC4 is exclusive to Type-C.
What does Samsung have to offer with Adaptive Fast Charge or Huawei with SuperCharge?
We still see dedicated fast-charging devices, even in Type-C smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Huawei Mate 9 or P10/Plus. However, Adaptive Fast Charge or Supercharge have nothing over Power Delivery. When we connected the devices to our PD-compatible Anker PowerPort+ 5 table charger, both devices charged at practically the same rate as the included charger.
Why Samsung, Huawei or OnePlus with Dash still even bother is already questionable in light of Power Delivery. There are no longer any apparent financial arguments in favor of proprietary development, and the customer will be happy about quickly charging his or her Samsung smartphone with a buddy’s Huawei charger. OnePlus could even save on expensive marketing videos like this one:
Power Delivery is already bearing its first fruits, and many mid-range smartphones will hopefully catch up this year. Then we could be done with hot batteries and waiting eternally for your buddy’s charger to get the job done. And since manufacturers can forego royalty fees and proprietary development, they can invest the budget in other components or perhaps even environmental protection.
Are you a quick charge loyalist or do you think common standards are better? Leave your comments below!