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Proprietary USB-C fast charging was once a necessary evil, now it’s just an evil

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Your next smartphone probably won’t come with a charger in the box. I’m not just talking about expensive flagship devices here – we’ve noticed a growing number of mid-range devices following this trend. The Samsung Galaxy A53 and Nothing Phone 1, two popular budget picks for 2022, don’t come with a charger. And if we’ve learned anything from the demise of the headphone jack, it’s that other companies will eventually follow suit.

Given this inevitability, it’s high time for manufacturers to abandon proprietary charging protocols in favor of universal standards, and here’s why.

Our guide: How wired and wireless fast charging work

No (proprietary) charger in the box: a worrying future?

30W Google USB-C power adapter standing upright on a wooden beam

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

While Samsung and Nothing have drawn some flak for making the charger a separate purchase, many users will surely get by without the purchase. Both companies rely on the universal USB Power Delivery standard for fast charging. Despite what the name would have you believe, Samsung Super Fast Charging is not a proprietary standard. Instead, it is based on the USB-PD Programmable Power Supply (PPS) specification.

Practically speaking, you can use any PPS-enabled charger – even a third-party charger – to charge a modern Samsung device. However, the same is not true for many other smartphone brands, including Xiaomi, OnePlus and Oppo to name a few. These brands are at the forefront of fast smartphone charging technology today, with their respective protocols supporting up to 150W. However, if you used a USB-PD charger with these devices, they historically only pulled 18 or 27W from the wall.

Modern smartphones with proprietary charging can charge at lightning speed, but only support a paltry 27W via USB Power Delivery.

Needless to say, this difference is cause for concern. Most of us don’t own a SuperVOOC charger, so if Oppo stopped shipping chargers in the box, you’d have no choice but to get one. You can usually mix and match chargers from OnePlus, Oppo and Realme, but that’s only because they’re all based on the same basic technology. In contrast, USB Power Delivery has become almost universal these days, and you’ll find it supported on everything from Macbooks to Bluetooth speakers.

Related: 100W, 150W, 240W? Cable charging has lost its meaning

This divide is further exacerbated by the fact that brands are now fighting for the fastest charging possible with each new generation. It is common for new smartphones to support twice the charging power of their direct predecessors. OnePlus, for example, jumped from 30W to 150W in just three years. While the brand currently bundles chargers with new devices, what if that commitment ends?

Even if you have the right proprietary charger, it may be slower than what your new device supports. If you then upgrade to a new charger, the old one becomes virtually useless as it won’t charge any of your other devices quickly. All in all, it’s a vicious cycle. Not to mention the other e-waste it causes.

Why a universal charging standard makes sense

Belkin Boost Charge Dual USB C PD GaN Modes

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Based on everything we’ve discussed so far, it’s clear that proprietary charging technology doesn’t belong in a technology landscape that’s increasingly moving toward interoperability.

Adopting a universal standard like USB Power Delivery won’t solve the USB-C fragmentation problem overnight, but at least it will allow us to share chargers between multiple devices. Many devices such as laptops today already support 100W charging via USB-PD. And thanks to the new 240W specification, the standard should become even more ubiquitous in the future. To that end, USB-PD compatible chargers should keep getting cheaper as more and more devices support them.

Widespread adoption of USB Power Delivery will lead to increased competition and lower prices.

Already today, for the price of a Samsung or Google charging cube, you can pick up a third-party adapter that offers either more charging power or more ports. Unfortunately, that’s not possible in the world of proprietary charging, where you have no choice but to spend $30-$50 on a first-party adapter that might not even work with any of your other devices.

Our selection: The best wall chargers

The problem extends far beyond the world of wall chargers. Portable power banks and car chargers do not support proprietary protocols. What’s worse, it’s not always possible to find a first-party option. As with wall plugs, charging power in these situations often drops to 10W or 18W, which is unacceptable for most modern smartphone users.

Self-charging: The beginning of the end?

Charging your Oppo phone with SuperVOOC

Harley Maranan / Android Authority

As much as I hate to admit it, proprietary charging protocols are probably here to stay – at least for the foreseeable future. Brands have long claimed that their respective charging technologies do a better job of maintaining battery health compared to the competition.

Earlier this year, Oppo claimed that its Battery Health Engine in the Find X5 Pro allowed the battery to sustain 1,600 charge cycles before losing 20% ​​of its capacity. Xiaomi also made a similar, albeit more conservative, claim when it introduced its HyperCharge fast charging technology.

Proprietary protocols may not disappear overnight due to battery health issues.

You’ve probably heard countless times that battery health can deteriorate significantly without proper precautions. Oppo says this potential pitfall has been avoided by using a proprietary algorithm that constantly adjusts the charging current. It has also fine-tuned the chemistry of its lithium-ion batteries for better longevity.

Related: 6 common battery myths you probably believe

Even taking the battery health claims at face value, it’s not clear why these measures can’t be implemented alongside universal standards like USB-PD. After all, the latest USB Programmable Power Supply specification already supports variable voltage and current levels.

If proprietary protocols are really necessary, the least manufacturers can do is improve compatibility with open standards. We’ve seen a few steps in this direction, such as Oppo’s line of mini flash chargers with support for both SuperVOOC and USB-PD PPS charging. While the company hasn’t shown any inclination to sell them outside of China yet, OnePlus has seemingly made the first move.

The OnePlus 10T comes with a 150W SuperVOOC charger that also includes support for USB-PD, up to 45W. While it’s a far cry from the 65W (or even 100W) that many laptops claim, the move is hopefully a sign that the days of proprietary disposable chargers are numbered.

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