You may think that charging your phone consists of finding a cable with a plug that fits. Not so. Not all chargers are created equal. Some take much longer to fill your battery. Others are worse and can do lasting damage to your device. That fake charger cable may be killing the battery it was supposed to revive!
Fortunately, chargers aren’t hard to understand, and a few basic steps can keep you out of trouble.
Fake Charger Risks
Mobile phone chargers have a basic job. They supply your device with power. This activates the charging circuitry, which goes about the process of rejuvenating your depleted battery.
For this reason, phone chargers are more aptly called adapters. Their job isn’t to charge your device. It’s to convert DC power to a level your phone or tablet can handle.
Power adapters may seem like simple cords that transfer current to your phone, but the process isn’t so straightforward. There are various parts inside that bulbous plug. A regulator, for example, tells the charger when your phone is full. This way it doesn’t continue trying to provide power (though it will still draw electricity from your socket, even if you disconnect the phone). Constantly overcharging a battery will shorten its lifespan.
Such components protect your handset from power spikes and the opposite: drawing too little power. Some chargers will make your phone think it’s charging, but an hour later, you check your device to find that all the adapter did was keep the lights on.
Your battery isn’t the only thing at risk. Googler Benson Leung has made it his mission to review USB Type-C accessories to make sure they are quality products. In the process, he lost a $1,500 Chromebook Pixel to a bad cable.
Trying to save money on a cheap USB cable can ultimately cost you a great deal more money in the end.
Apple’s chargers are exorbitantly expensive, but the Chartered Trading Standards Institute conducted an investigation where 397 of the 400 chargers it purchased online failed a basic safety tesk.
Some cheap chargers might not meet certain regulatory standards. They may contain harmful materials that pose a threat to you or the environment.
Fake chargers may even be physically defective, with prongs that come out when you try to unplug them from the wall.
What Should You Do?
On the positive side, you’re not likely to find fake chargers at brick and mortar stores. That said, you can find no shortage of cheap microUSB cables stocked up on store shelves. Here are some tips to give your battery a long, happy life.
1. Carry Your Official Charger With You
You may have several dozen microUSB chargers lying around, but it’s worth using the one that came with your phone or tablet. Carry it around with you in your bag so that you can use the same power adapter when away from home. This is the single easiest thing you can do without having to learn a thing about how chargers work, as long as you keep the cable in good condition.
But there are times when you need to charge your device in the car. What then? Many manufacturers do not offer an official car charger. You are going to have to venture out and buy one from someone else. The next steps will give you a few things to keep an eye on.
2. Check Input/Output Levels
The power adapter that comes with your phone supplies what the manufacturer has determined is the ideal amount of power. If you’re looking for a second charger, first make sure that the input/output levels match the one that came with your device.
Look at your adapter. An input level of 100–240 V shows the acceptable amount of voltage. Plugging it to an outlet or source above this range can destroy the charger.
Then look for output levels. If your battery needs 4.2 volts to fully charge, then you need a power adapter that can reach this level. One that outputs around 3 V will not be able to charge a 4.2 V battery, which is why your decade-old charger may not work with your latest phone.
Next, check amperage. Many smartphone chargers provide an output of 1 A. A device that requires less than 1 A will only pull what it needs. But if your adapter only provides 500 mA, a device that needs more may, at best, charge slower, and at worst, get damaged. Some devices won’t accept a charger that doesn’t supply enough power. Many tablets come with 2 A power adapters.
3. Look for Certifications
Some certifications, such as CE, show a manufacturer’s commitment to meeting the regulatory standards of a given area (in this case, the European Economic Area). RoHS certification shows that a product does not have certain hazardous materials. These offer assurances that a product will not only be less likely to damage your device, but you, your home, and the rest of the environment.
If you have an iPhone, look for the Made for iPod logo. This is Apple’s licensing program for companies that develop peripherals for its products. Despite the name, it applies to the iPhone and iPad as well.
4. Do a Side-by-Side Comparison
Do a comparison with the charger that came with your device. Some fakes can be very convincing, showing the same brand name and a few certifications but not all the ones that the real one offers. The visual difference may even come down to a few words.
Compare the weight of the two chargers. Tap on them to see how they sound. These steps aren’t necessary if you’re comparing the official charger to a third-party option, but it’s essential if you think you may have purchased a fake.
Are You Concerned About Your Charger?
Smartphones aren’t known for having the longest battery life. Still, if your device drains quickly and charges slowly, double-check your chargers. One of them may not be doing you any favors. I know I’ve long used whichever microUSB cable I can find to charge my devices.
What about you? Do you stick to the cable your device came with? Are you happy to borrow a friend’s? Have you typically gone for expensive chargers or the cheapest ones you could find? Notice any impact on your phone? Share your story with us!
Image Credit: Remitski Ivan via Shutterstock.com