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What's in the box?
Your Ultimate Guide to Phone Chargers...
All you've ever wanted to know about phone chargers and things you've never even thought about!
We don't realise how vital our phone chargers are to us until our mobile phones run out of juice and we know we need them in a rush and how much we depend on them working!
But what do we know about phone chargers? How long have they existed, and how do they actually work? How do we know which one to buy and if we are getting value for our money?
The Phone Charger Marketplace
The demand for smartphone use across the globe has seen a corresponding rise in the need for power chargers.
The increasing use of digital products, all fitted with rechargeable batteries such as smartphones, ipads, Bluetooth speakers have all driven the growth of power banks and chargers.
The emergence of these technologies in the consumer market place such as wireless, artificial intelligence, and IoT services along with the rise of internet services has exploded the use of gadgetry.
The global market for power chargers is valued at over £16 million in 2017 and is set to rise to over £19 million by 2025.
What actually is a
mobile phone charger?
The phone charger is an essential accessory for any battery-charged phone and is used most commonly with cellular phones which often have short battery lives.
Because of the diversity of usage for mobile phones, phone chargers have been adapted to cope with any type of situation, so there is a lot in the marketplace for you to choose from.
It's actually quite a common occurrence for people to own more than one phone charger to suit their lifestyle.
So, we are talking about the device which is used to recharge the battery which is in your mobile phone unit.
When you buy a mobile phone, the charger is often included in the package, but you don't have to be limited to the one you bought with your mobile phone as there are many which have additional features that might suit your mobile phone usage better.
There are literally so many mobile phones and their chargers, to choose from, it's really worth shopping around to see what suits your lifestyle.
There are wall chargers, car chargers, travel chargers, rapid chargers, and instant chargers!
Are you flapping already about which one you need? The most common is the wall charger which has a standard plug designed to fit the outlet whichever country it was bought in.
However, it's important to remember that wall chargers are unlikely to be universal – you have to buy a new charger to suit your new phone, mainly if your phone is a different or more unique brand than you had previously.
Some charger packages have additional features such as docking stations which are for the phone to stand – they're not always popular as they can't be used while the phone is actually charging...
Lots of people use computer chargers as they can be used at home or work. These chargers tend to use a USB connector which allows the phone to be charged up while the computer is on.
Computer chargers can also be used with laptops – people who use them daily find this a good option for their lifestyle.
The travel charger is quite similar to the wall charger but isn't as bulky and have prongs which fold down, making it easy to travel with.
Another popular choice of phone charger is the car charger which has an adaptor which can be plugged into the car's DC port (cigarette lighter).
The car charger is particularly useful for people who do lots of traveling and need regular access to their phones.
A rapid charger, however, looks like a wall charger but is very powerful and is able to charge phones really quickly – only two to three hours! This does make them wear out the phone's battery quicker though...
Instant chargers are in reality, one-time, non-replaceable batteries. They don't replace the installed battery but are connected to the phone just like a standard charger is.
These are great in emergencies when the mobile phone battery is low or dead. The point of it is to transfer current from one battery to the next.
There are also some alternative mobile phone chargers available now, particularly for those people who enjoy technology gadgetry or who are trying to be environmentally friendly by reducing energy use.
Solar phone chargers use small solar panels to capture the energy in sunlight and use it to restore the battery (a bit like solar panel windows in roofs).
These are an excellent choice for campers and hikers who may be away from conventional power sources.
There is also a hand-cranked charger, which uses manual power to provide a charge. They may take serious arm effort to work to provide enough charge to work, but they don't need sunlight which again, can be extremely useful in remote areas.
So, when you're buying your mobile phone charger, it is vital to check out what works with your phone as it may not work with your model.
There's a model number on the packaging of your mobile phone purchase, so ensure you cross-reference it when you're buying an additional charger.
Lots of mobile phone charger packages have a connecting portion of the charger to the phone outside of the packaging so you can have a chance to test the connection with your own phone.
Better safe than sorry!
So, before you charge out to buy a phone charger, think about where, how often, and why you'll be using the mobile phone and the most practical way and place of recharging it.
We take phone chargers for granted these days and spend our time being more irritated about the lack of those little white bars at the top of our phones being erratic than how to maintain the power of our phones.
But, do you remember the days when mobile phones were the sizes and sometimes shapes of bricks?
Eriksson in the 1950s actually had a mobile phone that weighed 80lbs! But did you know that a vast amount of the bulk and weight of those old devices was made up mainly with the battery?
They provided only a tiny amount of usage time before they ran out! This wasn't so long ago, and the advancement of mobile phones and their accessories has changed dramatically thanks to a few seemingly simple devices.
The cell phone battery that we vaguely recognize today from the original technology was invented in the 1970s and is thought of as the mother of the modern mobile phone battery.
A prototype, of what can be viewed as the modern cell phone battery, was created in 1973 by a concept at Bell Labs, USA. By the late 1970s, it was being tested out all over the States and Japan, with various pilot schemes. Their concept was large (nowhere near pocket size) and provided 30 minutes of charge if they were lucky!
Due to the 1980s growing popularity with mobile phones, there was more of a focus on the chargers' evolution.
However, the batteries still took up to 10 hours to recharge at that time! Car phones became more popular due to the limitations of the cell phones' batteries.
The main factor of change is that during the 1980s and '90s nickel-cadmium batteries (NiCD) were the batteries of choice.
These were the big, bulky ones who made the cell phones big and bulky too. They tended to have a short life and also got hot, which caused disturbances. As they contained cadmium, a toxic substance, they were difficult to dispose of, and there was inevitable, health scares for users.
Mobile phones were, at that time, still a bit of a niche market. It wasn't until the mid-1990s that the batteries and the mobile phones began to get smaller and more manageable and more mainstream.
The mobiles and their batteries in the 1990s were getting smaller, and the networks used to run them were getting better too.
There was more of a focus on how the batteries could be recharged rather than disposed of. By 1991, there was even digital phone networks and systems such as GSM, TDMA, and CDMA evolved. These 1990 phones were easy to carry around as the batteries and computer chips shrank from 20-80lbs to between 100 and 200 grams.
So, in the late 1990s, the cell phone batteries were nickel-metal hydride, also known as NiMH.
These were non-toxic and had fewer memory issues; they were also thinner and weighed less.
Also, the NiMH batteries had a longer shelf life, so users could speak for longer before they died.
But it was not until the noughties onwards that Smartphones and the compact and more powerful batteries began to hit the marketplace and the general mobile phone industry exploded with an increasing number of choice of mobile phone and their rechargers.
Although these smartphones are totally different in relation to their predecessors, they still faced obstacles and challenges, albeit different ones.
The difficulties smartphones face is that they are used so frequently and for some many different purposes that their built-in power banks which although compact and powerful batteries, often run out of power.
Therefore, there's been a considerable move towards external battery chargers.
These battery chargers have become the constant companion of the mobile phone user, and with so much choice on the market, it is sometimes difficult, with the ever-changing technology inventions, to know which battery charger is the best.
The lithium-ion battery replaced the NiMH, and which is still in use today. They are thinner, lighter, and have a long life span. They don't take long to charge either. As they can be made into many different shapes and sizes to suit the customer so that any mobile phone company can use them in their devices.
They don't have memory effects to concern them, so they can be recharged lots of times and to top it all, they are safe for the environment!
Their downside is the cost... Expensive compared to older batteries! The latest development in terms of materials used in cell batteries is the lithium- poly ion or Li-Poly battery.
This has 40% more power than the earlier NiMH batteries!
They are mega light and have no memory effect issues which can cause charging problems. However, these batteries are still a rarity and aren't commonly used yet.
So, while we take it for granted to have an external phone charger with our mobile devices, it wasn't so long ago when they were in-built and had a short life.
It's, therefore, a savvy idea to keep your eye on the latest inventions with this ever-moving market!
How do the phone chargers actually work? Here comes the technical stuff...
In most cell phones are rechargeable batteries which are made mainly from lithium-ion and are light in weight, store massive amounts of energy and can be recharged hundreds of times over many years.
All batteries irrespective of type have something called an anode also known as a positive terminal as well as a cathode, also known as a negative terminal. There are electrodes within the battery which is a sort of paste and causes an electrical reaction when you connect the terminals to a circuit.
In your battery, the anode is mainly made up of graphite which is a pure form of carbon. A compound called lithium cobalt oxide forms the cathode, and the electrolyte consists of salts such as lithium perchlorate.
When the mobile phone is in use, the chemicals in your battery react to create an electric current.
Miniscule electronic circuits inside the battery monitor the voltage.
This is when you get the white battery icon status at the top of your phone indicating how much juice you have left.
The monitor doesn't allow the battery to overcharge and disconnects the battery if its voltage drops too low – if your voltage drops below 2.5 volts you can't recharge it.
It's the charge indicator on your phone's screen then that lets you know when to recharge the battery.
The charger can be plugged into a standard 115-volt AC electrical outlet, and the electricity reverses the chemical reactions in the battery restoring it to the fully charged state.
This is due to the charger's circuits converting the alternating current to direct current and reducing the voltage to the appropriate level for the cell phone.
Nowadays you can expect your mobile's charger and battery to last for two to three years.
Roughly after this time period, you'll probably have to replace your phone as the battery won't be as long.
A way to lengthen your phone's battery life is to recharge it before it ever becomes severely depleted.
Overall, the phone chargers are very energy efficient because they are designed to run on a battery for an extended period of time.
They use approximately 2 to 6 watts when charging, and a charger left in without a phone consumes about 0.1 to 0.5 of a watt.
Therefore, charging a cell phone is not a very significant source of energy consumption.
You could unplug your phone charger to save a bit of energy, but it's still minimal and cheap.
My green, lean, little machine...
One of the biggest mistakes people make with old phone chargers is to chuck 'em out!
Millions of cell phones and chargers are thrown away each year and end up in landfills, and we've just told you all about the chemicals that are in them!
There are loads of ways you can dispose of your old chargers without causing too much harm or hassle.
There's very likely to be an e-cycling centre near you but failing that and asking friends and family if they are interested in your old charger...
You could contact your local schools – the phone charger may be outdated for you, but it's unlikely to be for them so give them a call.
Same with your local charity shops – you'll be surprised how many others will want it!
So, be thoughtful when disposing of your phone charger as what may be old and useless to you may be a godsend to someone else.
Features to Look for
When Buying A Charger
As we have discussed the innocent-looking phone charger has come along way and in keeping with the changing mobile phone technology.
So when looking to buy a phone charger what are the features that you should look for or take account of when making your purchasing decisions. There are so many options to choose from how do you decide which charger or power bank is going to float your boat.
Capacity & Size
It goes without saying that, like most things the bigger the battery, the larger capacity is going to give you more ports to charge from.
If you are looking for something that will give you a higher charge you are going to require a bag or something to keep it in.
A pocket phone charger is ok for a single iPhone charge, but that is about it. They would typically have a battery size of around 3,500 mAh as a maximum which is just enough for a single charge.
Once the battery size increases above this, it is less likely to fit in your jeans pocket.
So for heavy users, you might want to invest in a laptop bag or some other carrying accessory.
I don't mean the type that ships sail into – these are the critical bits where you plug your phone or device in.
Ports are essential for a battery as they will determine both the speed of charge and which devices are compatible.
As a standard for most chargers, they will have a micro USB port for input and a USB A port for output.
However, more adaptors are also incorporating the USB C port as more devices come on stream that is compatible.
The USB C will allow for Faster Charging
As we are on this topic, let's look at the speed of charging.
The output of a battery is measured both in voltage and amperage. The Amperage part refers to the current or the amount of electricity that is flowing from the battery itself into the device that is being charged.
If you multiply the amperage by the voltage you end up with the wattage, this is a measure of the total power.
In order to make for a faster charge, power bank manufacturers either vary the voltage or increase the amperage, thus increasing the total wattage.
For most fast-charging batteries, it is the case of boosting the voltage. Let's get a bit more technical because the speed of charge is something that most people want.
In the industry, there are two primary charging standards. There are Qualcomm's quick charge and Adaptive Fast Charging.
These both work by increasing the voltage rather than the amperage. Bear in mind that a phone will only take in as much power as the circuit in it for charging purposed will allow.
So even if it is plugged into a giant battery, but its charging capability is 5V/2A then that is the rate that the phone will charge at.
More and more power banks and chargers are incorporating what is called pass- through support.
Pass-through charging is when the phone charger has the capacity to charge itself at the same time as charging another device.
With this facility, when you need to grab your phone, it will be fully charged as well as the power bank itself.
If you are looking for a power bank that will incorporate pass-through charging, make sure you get one with a high capacity.
If you are looking for a power bank that will incorporate pass-through charging, make sure you get one with a high capacity.
Having a high capacity charger will ensure that the unit does not deplete it will still be at a functional charging capacity.
More and more manufacturers are developing wi-fi charging devices, and the technology is rapidly gaining ground.
Wireless charging is the transfer of power from your charger to your device without the need for cables.
The primary standard for wireless charging standard is called Qi. This standard has been adopted by many of the famous phone manufacturers such as Samsung, Apple, Blackberry.
Qi has three power specifications, low power which is for device charging, medium power which is for devices such as laptops and ipads. Then high power for items needing over 1kW.
Although more convenient, there are a few downsides.
Wireless charging is slower than traditional charging, and if you remove your phone from the charging pad, it will stop charging whereas if your phone is plugged in, you can still use it.
What does the future
hold for phone chargers?
Well, we've talked about how rapidly the technology has evolved, just in the last 50 years, so we can probably see further developments occurring in the world of phone chargers – as we speak!
We all accept our smartphones basically help us run our lives, and we're lost when they run out of juice – they help us with GPS and mapping programs, they manage our calendars, alarms, and reminders and keep us constantly connected to our friends, family and colleagues with chats and images.
So, we know how essential the phone charger is and that the developing technology which enhances our smartphone experience is of paramount importance to our individual lives.
Whether you need a multi-purpose charger or just a basic one, you should be aware of what is available in the marketplace.
The technology leaders latest development is focusing on cutting the cords on the charger.
This means that very soon, the majority of smartphone brands will be marketing their wireless charging capabilities.
This means that no longer will you have to plug in your phone to a wall whenever you can!
It looks as though with the wireless charger, you can forget the irritating ways of charging your phone and step into the future!
The days of fumbling around looking for your phone charger are gone.You can now simply place your wireless charging capable phone on the pad, and your mobile phone will begin to charge.
It appears that the techno giants of iPhones, Galaxy, Sony and Google Pixel are planning a cordless future.
Don't panic – this doesn't mean they are entirely replacing wired charging with immediate effect but watch this space.
You probably know already that iPhones have a built-in wireless charging coil since they released the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X.
However, it is thought that 2020's new iPhones will come with a copper coil, instead of the ferrite polymer composite (FPC) component that is inside of the most recent iPhones.
This would enable faster and more efficient charging which is fabulous news, particularly as it's also expected that the AirPower charging pad is also going to be launched and which has the ability to simultaneously power iPhones, Apple Watches and AirPods.
Likewise, Samsung's Galaxy S9, S9+, and Note 9 can all charge with no cord. All three of these Samsung's technological gadgets support 12-watt, fast wireless charging.
Samsung is also producing a charging port which can power two Qi-compatible devices at once and has a fast-charging dock.
They are also in the marketplace with a portable wireless charging stand which can be unplugged from the wall and used to power phones whilst users are on the move!
Google's Pixel Stand is due out this year and incorporates Assistant technology. This means your 'Assistant' can use your personal information to make suggestions, answer questions and act for you when your phone is locked and on your Pixel stand – the next inevitable step is therefore for Google to merge wireless charging with this cutting-edge A.I assistant.
Some of the concerns users have had with the wireless charger is safety. However, there's no fear of overheating or overcharging your phone as they have smart functionality and will stop charging as soon as your phone battery is full.
If your charger senses a metal object which can be dangerous, it will give you an error warning and shuts off the charging circuit – all very high tech!
So, we've established how essential having access to a charger, in whatever form, is to your smartphone, for work or play.
We've talked about wireless chargers being the future, but, until we get there, how can we charge our phones when we're on the move for work or travel?
Charging services is probably one of the world's latest innovations in customer service as they can be provided in spaces of any size in industries such as pubs, bars, airports, hospitals, supermarkets, shopping centres, stadiums, restaurants, cafes, and late-night venues.
Whatever the size of the venue, you may find these charging stations available for you to plug in your phone and recharge whilst you eat, drink, socialize, etc.
There are various types of charge bars around from the universal, plugin and charge to the portable bank which customers appreciate the flexibility of as they can take the portable bank to their desk, table or seat.
There is also the charging cart which allows shoppers to charge their phones whilst they shop as it is attached to their trolley.
Kiosks can also be seen around and are great as they can charge up to 16 phones at a time – look out for them at stadiums and other large crowd events.
Rarer to find but still available is the phone charging locker which has secure bays and is pay-to-use or free, depending on where you are.
They are either wall-mounted or freestanding so look out for them too! Phone charging bars are really useful, so you don't have to leave your event, party, night out or whatever, early, due to your phone running out!
Solar Power Banks
One for the future might lie with solar power banks. At present, the average solar- powered charger will take up to 10 hours to charge the average smartphone. The other problem is that some have to be in direct sunlight to charge.
A solar charger is basically like a little mini solar panel you see on roofs of buildings.
Obviously, the selling point is that as they are pulling power from the sun, the cost to run is nil. The longevity of the solar power bank is in question, though.
Some can only manage up to 400 charges before they go kaput. So using every day will mean you only have it for about a year and a half.
There is still work to do before solar will become a mainstream mobile phone charging favorite.
Click a to view features
Lightning & Micro USB cables built in, with USB & USB-C ports
LED Power Output & Display
See your power bank's charge level at a glance, so you always know when to charge it up
Latest QI Wireless Charging
Charge compatible devices simply by resting them on top of your power bank