For those who don’t know, European legislators have reached agreement earlier this week to force manufacturers of electronic devices, including smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones and more, to use the same universal charging port – USB-C. Correct, USB-C everything will be enacted into law and will enter into force in the EU in autumn 2024. If we settle for a regular USB-C charger, we will not only reduce e-waste, but also make our life easier. The benefits of using a single charger with a USB-C to C cable because all gadgets cannot be underestimated.
As someone who has a . used android phone along with a few other gadgets that already use the same USB-C port for charging, I’m more interested in the part of the legislation that harmonizes fast charging standards with USB PD. This is something that was missed in the main coverage, even if it may be the bigger news for the Android ecosystem. Even if you take Apple out of the equation for lagging behind its competitors in fast charging, you also can’t ignore the disparity in charging speeds between some Android flagships. But how does the EU agree to make USB PD more commonplace to solve our fast charging problems? Let’s try to understand this.
We reached a deal on the common charger!
✔️mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, digital cameras and more #USBtypeC
✔️harmonized fast charging technology
✔️unbundling sales of chargers from sales of device
— IMCO Committee Press (@EP_SingleMarket) June 7, 2022
Harmonize fast charging with USB PD
Before we get started, it’s worth pointing out that legislation doesn’t prevent manufacturers from creating their own patented fast charging standards. This means that manufacturers including OPPO, Xiaomi and Huawei can continue to push the boundaries with their own charging methods. What the EU agreement does is it creates an element of harmony: you can do this as long as you also support USB Power Delivery. The agreement states compliance with: EN IEC 62680-1 and its subsections, essentially referring to USB Power Delivery Specification, Revision 3.0, Version 2.0 (ie support up to 100W).
From our reading of the EU agreement, we understand that the device manufacturers are asked to include the USB Power Delivery charging communication protocol if they want their devices to have a charging power greater than 15W. In general, though, I expect all smartphone manufacturers to settle for a fixed power level (either 45W, or even 65W via PD) thanks to the magic of competition, which allows us to quickly charge all phones at the same charging speed outside of proprietary methods. Yes, there’s also 25W “fast” charging, but it’s unlikely to become the common floor everyone should go to – 45W seems to be a much better floor. Yes, there’s nothing stopping them from just switching to 15W USB PD as well – but we expect the competitive forces to force the OEM to do better here.
Consider the vanilla Galaxy S22, for example. This particular phone has a 25W charging speed which is the same as its predecessor, the Galaxy S21. The Galaxy S22 Plus and the Galaxy S22 Ultrahowever, supports 45W fast charging. Those require a USB PD charger with Programmable Power Supply (PPS) support to charge the full 45W, and even then the phones themselves only demand 40W+ power for a few moments before going down to hovering around 30W. You could argue about the declining efficiency in charging speeds when it comes to power consumption versus charging times, but refilling the Galaxy S22’s tank from 0% to 100% takes much longer than it should for a phone of this size that costs as much as it does. It’s especially annoying given the non-ideal battery life of the vanilla Galaxy S22.
If harmonizing fast charging USB PD means that all these phones would have at least a single, faster USB PD charging speed, that would also make the experience of using these compact phones with smaller batteries much better. Any time these phones are running low it would be easier to find a compatible charger around you that will do you well enough to last you a few more hours. While certainly not a perfect replacement, the ability to quickly upgrade a dying phone with the greatest of ease would make it more enjoyable to use compact phones with relatively smaller batteries. Remember that the standard also applies to laptops, cameras and other electronic devices, so your chances of encountering a compatible charger and cable will be much higher.
To take another example on Android, the OnePlus 10 Pro can push up to 45W via USB PD with support for 15V and up to 3.0A, and that’s when you look beyond the proprietary 65W/80W charging OnePlus uses as its selling point. However, the charging rate of the PD is still sensitive to specific voltages and changes depending on the change in current of the battery. USB PD 3.0, in case you’re not aware, has dropped fixed power profiles in favor of a more flexible rule that maintains a fixed voltage while allowing for a wider range of power levels. The USB Power Delivery Programmable Power Supply protocol addresses some of these issues with configurable voltage levels. It’s probably not as easy to settle for a regular USB PD charging speed as we would imagine, as the charging speed is sensitive to specific voltages and also changes based on the current charge of the battery, but this calls for a larger technical level discussion to fill in the gaps.
Fast charging for iPhones, or lack thereof
The idea of harmonizing fast charging is especially interesting for iPhones that still remain the popular holdouts of USB-C charging. Even the most powerful iPhones on the market today use a Lightning port, the proprietary connector that Apple introduced in 2012 with the iPhone 5. iPhones have indeed gotten better at charging speeds over the years, but current charging speeds are still nothing to sneeze at.
Even if you spend an arm and a leg to buy an expensive 30W Apple charger for your iPhone 13 Pro Max, it will take you an hour and 30 minutes to go from 0 to 100%. But do you know what could solve this underlying charging problem that is currently not plaguing iPhones, but many other Android phones as well? Yes, right, just give us phones that can take advantage of USB PD charging to quickly charge the battery, so we can all carry a single charger or borrow one without worrying about charging speeds.
See, it’s nice to be able to use proprietary solutions to quickly top up a phone. But I should also be able to use any standard USB PD charger and get up to say 45W to charge my phone. It does not match what some manufacturers, such as OPPO, are cooking behind the scenes with their 240W chargers but i think 45W is enough to charge a phone very fast. The trade-off for lower-than-brand speed would be offset by the absolute widespread availability of USB PD-compatible charger hardware, marking it as a net gain for consumers.
While improving charging speeds or achieving charging standards in the market isn’t the main reason EU lawmakers have moved the needle, it’s still something to think about how things could change for the better by fall 2024. have no qualms about phones that use proprietary charging but I’ll happily take more ‘W’ (no pun intended) if harmonizing fast charging with USB PD saves me the trouble of using different chargers based on the phones I use .
Laptops will also have to comply with the rule, but that will happen at a later date, and it’s a completely different conversation because it will be interesting to see how budget designs handle the policy as most USB-C charging laptops on the market more expensive are ultralight models. That said, I’m just pumped up because I can use the same charger for some of the other devices I always have with me, including the laptop, cameras, a portable game console, etc., and quickly top up the tank without having to wait for long.
The legislation has yet to be voted on by both the EU Parliament and the Council, but let’s start a conversation on this issue. What do you think of the decision to standardize USB-C and PD? And how do you think manufacturers – especially Apple – will react to EU policies? Let us know by posting a line in the comments below.
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