can phone damage charger

Can Phone Damage Charger? Can cheap charging cables damage your phone? can cheap charger damage phone

Does your phone last all day on a single charge? How about a year from now? Battery anxiety is real, and if you’re contemplating a new phone like the Motorola Razr, Samsung Galaxy Note 20 or the upcoming iPhone 12, its battery life is an increasingly important factor in deciding if that device is worth the money. As we expect more from our phones — and want them to last longer — the importance of an all-day charge has become a critical feature, alongside screen size and camera quality.

can cheap charger damage phone

Can Phone Damage Charger

The enduring emphasis on battery life is one reason why fast chargers are now so ubiquitous, at least for high-end devices. The fastest, most power-delivering of all belong to premium phones like the Galaxy S20 and iPhone 11. If the battery threatens to drain before the end of the day, quickly recharging it with your lightning-fast quick charger is the next best thing. With fast charging especially, a 10-minute charge can make the difference between going into an austere power-saving mode and losing power completely before you get home. 

But now that fast charging is so readily available for phones, we have questions: Can a high-capacity charger damage your phone’s battery in the short term? Can it degrade your phone’s power-storing capability over time? And what causes unnecessary wear and tear on your phone’s battery anyway?

To get the answers, we spoke with several battery researchers and engineers about the effects of quick charging on your phone’s battery life. Here’s what we learned.

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Your phone battery isn’t changing anytime soon

All mobile phones — and most personal electronics and electric vehicles — use lithium-ion (li-ion) rechargeable batteries. It’s a tough slog to create batteries that last longer, because battery technology hasn’t changed in decades. Instead, much of the recent progress in battery life has come from power-saving features built into devices and from making the software that manages charging and discharging more efficiently, so you sip power rather than guzzle it. 

Unfortunately for mobile phones, the focus on extending battery life is generally on cars, satellites and your home’s power system, areas where industrial batteries need to function far beyond the two or three years we expect from our mobile devices.

Another force working against our phones is their battery size. Compared to an electric car battery, a phone’s power source is minute. For example, the Tesla 3’s rechargeable battery has a battery capacity over 4,000 times greater than the iPhone 11 Pro Max. 

The math gets a little complex because phone batteries are measured in milliampere-hours, while electric vehicle batteries are measured in watt-hours. But it’s possible to draw equivalents. For instance, the Pixel 4 has a 2,800-mAh battery (or 10.6 Wh), and the iPhone 11 Pro Max reportedly comes with a 3,969-mAh battery (15.04 Wh). Meanwhile, the Chevy Volt uses an 18,400-Wh battery and a midrange Tesla Model 3 flaunts a 62,000-Wh battery.

Tesla Alaska Testing Facility
The Tesla Model 3’s burly battery has more than 4,000 times the capacity of that of the iPhone 11 Pro Max.Nick Miotke/Roadshow

That matters because the larger a battery is, the more battery-saving tricks there are to extend its life. For example, as you charge a battery, the voltage rises, putting it under stress, especially during the last 20% of the charge. To avoid this stress, electric car makers may charge new batteries just to 80%. Because of that larger battery capacity, the electric car still can still go an acceptable distance, while avoiding the stress of higher voltages. This can double the total lifetime of the car’s battery.

Larger phone batteries can give you an all-day run time from a charge, but typically only at the full 100%. And while that lets the battery last for an acceptable time between charges, it also puts the battery under more stress from the higher voltage required to top it off.

Short of a major breakthrough in battery technology, improvements to our phone batteries will come from making the devices more energy-thrifty overall. (Here’s a more detailed look at what’s holding up the battery revolution.)

Fast charging won’t damage your battery

A conventional charger has an output of 5 to 10 watts. A faster charger can improve that by up to eight times. For example, the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max come with an 18-watt fast charger, the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus have 25-watt chargers in their boxes. Samsung will sell you an extra-speedy 45-watt charger for $50.

Unless there’s some technical flaw with your battery or charger electronics, however, using a fast charger won’t do your phone’s battery any long-term damage.

Here’s why. Fast-charging batteries work in two phases. The first phase applies a blast of voltage to the empty or nearly empty battery. This gives you that blazing charge of from 50% to 70% in the first 10, 15 or 30 minutes. That’s because during the first phase of charging, batteries can absorb a charge quickly without major negative effects on their long-term health. 

For instance, Samsung promises its 45-watt charger can go from zero to a 70% charge in half an hour. Apple says the fast charger that comes with its iPhone 11 Pro can hit a 50% charge in 30 minutes.

galaxy-note-10-plus-fotos
With Samsung’s 45-watt charger, the Note 10 Plus can go from empty to a 70% charge in half an hour.Juan Garzon / CNET

You know how it seems to take as long to fill up that last 20% or 30% of the battery as it does to charge the first 70% or 80%? That last part is the second charging phase, where phone-makers have to slow down and carefully manage the charging speed or else the charge process actually could damage the battery.

Arthur Shi, a tear-down engineer at the DIY repair site iFixit, suggests imagining a battery as a sponge. When you first pour water onto a dry sponge, it absorbs liquid quickly. For a battery, this is the fast-charging phase. 

As you continue to pour water onto the increasingly wet sponge at the same rate, the liquid will bead up on the surface as it fights to soak into the saturated sponge. For a battery, this unabsorbed charge can result in shorts and other issues that could potentially damage the battery.

Damage is rare if everything’s well-managed inside. A battery’s management system closely monitors the two charge phases and drops the charging speed during the second phase to give the battery time to absorb the charge and avoid issues, which is why it can take 10 minutes to get those last few percentage points. 

The case of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7’s tragically exploding battery resulted from battery design flaws rather than from the phone software’s battery management techniques.

You can’t overcharge your phone battery

Overcharging used to cause anxiety among phone owners. The fear was that keeping a phone constantly plugged in could charge a battery beyond its capacity, making the battery unstable, which could degrade overall battery life or build up too much internal heat and cause the battery to burst or catch fire. 

According to the experts we spoke with, however, a battery’s management system is designed to shut off the electrical charge once a battery reaches 100%, before it can overcharge. 

“Unless something goes wrong with the battery circuitry, you can’t overcharge a modern phone,” said Venkat Srinivasan, a battery researcher at the Argonne National Laboratory and director of the Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science. “They have protection built in to exactly stop that from happening.”

Remember that you can, however, put a battery under strain as you head to a 100% charge, as detailed above. (It’s why electronic-vehicle makers cut off the charge on new batteries around 80%.)

Apple takes a clever approach to this problem, starting with the iOS 13 software, that charges your iPhone battery to 100% without doing long-term damage. 

apple-iphone-battery
iOS 13 can help reduce the strain of charging up your phone.Angela Lang/CNET

If you frequently keep your iPhone plugged in during the day or while you sleep, you can turn on an iOS 13 battery setting called Optimized Battery Charging that will monitor your charging schedule and hold your iPhone’s battery charge at 80%, keeping it out of the stress zone. After that point, it’ll top off the charge to 100% right before you regularly unplug your phone. This works best for people who have a regular charging pattern.

For a manual approach, you can also unplug your phone when it hits an 80% charge, but the trade-off is you might miss out on additional hours of use that you’d get from a fully charged phone.

You shouldn’t let your battery drain to zero

At one time, you may have wanted to let your phone discharge all the way down once in a while to help the battery recalibrate its state of charge. But that’s not so much of a problem with modern phone batteries. 

In fact, discharging a battery all the way down can cause chemical reactions that over time can shorten a battery’s life. To avoid a complete discharge, a battery’s management system includes safety features that power down a phone when it reaches an energy level safely above empty. You only think you’ve hit zero when you see that last low-battery warning.

If you want to take a more active hand in your battery’s health, plug in your phone when its battery level gets down around 30%, well above the stressfully low battery levels.

High temperatures can damage your battery

Heat is a true enemy to your battery. High temperatures are known to reduce a battery’s lifespan over time. 

You’ll want to keep your phone out of strong sun, away from window sills and off the dashboard of your car to prevent overheating, which can make the battery less efficient over time. In extreme cases, an overheated battery could explode. 

Temperatures as high as 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) can decrease a battery’s effectiveness, said Isidor Buchmann, founder and CEO of battery technology company Cadex Electronics and its companion Battery University education website. 

Does that mean you want to store your phone in an ice chest? No. But as much as you can, keep it away from high temperatures. If you’re out in the sun for long periods of time, try draping a towel or T-shirt over it, or put it in a bag along with your cool water bottle. The idea is to keep the phone’s internal temperature from rising.

Mismatched chargers and cables won’t harm your battery

Unless you’re using counterfeit or damaged chargers and cables, mixing and matching cables and chargers is not going to harm your battery. However, you may not be charging up quickly as possible as when you use the ones that came with your device.

Some phones, such as those from Huawei and OnePlus, use a proprietary charging design — with part of the circuitry responsible for rapid charging built into the charger. To take full advantage of the device’s proprietary fast charging, you need to use its compatible charger.

oneplus-7t-pro-24
OnePlus employs a proprietary charging design for its phones, including the OnePlus 7T Pro.Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Other phone makers, such as Samsung and Apple, stick closer to industry-standard rules for fast charging and let you fast-charge effectively with a variety of compatible cables and chargers. 

The safest bet is to use the chargers and cables that come in the box, because when mixing and matching chargers and cables with your phone, the device could default to the lowest possible charging speed.

How else can I conserve my phone’s battery power?

To squeeze more life out of your battery, you can use the usual energy-saving tricks to conserve your battery’s power, such as dimming your display’s brightness, turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when you’re not using them, restricting background data usage through settings and keeping an eye on apps that use GPS.

But the truth is, no matter how careful we are, our phone batteries will last only so long. The trick is to get as many months as we can from our battery without being in a constant state of anxiety about its charge.

Can cheap charging cables damage your phone

THE BEST PHONES TO BUY IF YOU’RE A PHONE ENTHUSIAST 2021

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G

1. SAMSUNG GALAXY Z FOLD 2 5G

THE BEST FOLDING PHONE BECAUSE YOU KNOW YOU NEED ONE IN YOUR COLLECTION

Folding phones are the future, right? You can’t call yourself a Real Phone Enthusiast without one in your life. Hands down, the best folding phone you can buy right now is Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G. It’s got everything you might want from a modern smartphone, but it also opens up into a tablet-sized screen that lets you put more than one app side-by-side or look at a giant version of Google Maps. It’s easy to justify because you can tell yourself that you will get SO MUCH WORK done on it, right after you finish watching that YouTube video. Promise.

The Fold 2 costs more than most laptops, you have to baby it, and there’s a really good chance the screen will crack or break on you even if you are careful, but that’s just the price you have to pay to be on the bleeding edge.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

  • $1,799

If you’re buying a folding phone and are willing to pay the cost to get one, you should buy the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2.

iPhone 12 mini
Apple iPhone 12 Mini

2. APPLE IPHONE 12 MINI

THE BEST IPHONE FOR WHEN YOU’RE DOUBLE-FISTING AN ANDROID PHONE

Look, I know that you know that everyone in the world has an iPhone and it’s the farthest thing from an “interesting” phone. But at the same time, it’s hard to ignore what Apple’s doing, and really, iMessage and the Apple Watch are pretty great. Lots of people carry an iPhone alongside an Android phone, and you could be one of them.

The best iPhone for doing this is the iPhone 12 Mini. It does everything its bigger siblings can do, but it can easily fit in a secondary pocket and isn’t a burden to carry around. The battery life is kinda lousy, but who cares, that’s why you have a second phone on you anyway, right?

Apple iPhone 12 Mini

  • $699

The iPhone 12 Mini is the smallest phone in Apple’s lineup and the best small phone you can get.

Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate
The Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate comes with a clip-on fan and has 18GB of RAM.

3. ASUS ROG PHONE 5 ULTIMATE

THE BEST PHONE FOR SEEING WHAT THIS “GAMING PHONE” TREND IS ALL ABOUT

Gaming phones are so hot right now (unless they’ve got a great cooling system) — it seems like a new model is released every three months. You can’t call yourself a true phone enthusiast without being up on this trend, and the best one to dip your toes into it with is the Asus ROG Phone 5 Ultimate.

The ROG Phone 5 Ultimate has a ton of features that can make any mobile accomplisher swoon. A massive battery. A ridiculously high refresh screen. An OLED screen on the back you can customize to show whatever you want. A bunch of accessories to make gaming better. 18GB of RAM! How could you not buy this phone?

Asus ROG Phone 5

  • $1,000

The Asus ROG Phone 5 is the quintessential example of a modern gaming phone. It has over-the-top specs, lots of gaming accessories, and a head-turning design.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

4. SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 20 ULTRA

THE BEST PHONE FOR PRETENDING YOU’RE GOING TO USE A STYLUS

Writing on a phone screen with a pen is so cool! It feels futuristic and is just so natural. At least, it is for the first week until you forget about it and it never leaves the little garage built into the side of the phone again.

If you’ve been telling yourself that little “I’m gonna be a stylus person” lie, you need a phone that supports one and it’s hard to see buying anything other than Samsung’s Galaxy Note 20. It’s got a low latency S Pen, a bunch of software features that can utilize the stylus, and all of the other bells and whistles of a modern smartphone, which means it works quite well long after you’ve forgotten about the stylus.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

  • $950
  • $1,300
  • 27% off

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is one of Samsung’s top-tier non-folding phones, and it has excellent battery life.

The Google Pixel 4A has an incredible camera.
The Google Pixel 4A

5. GOOGLE PIXEL 4A

THE BEST PHONE FOR MESSING AROUND WITH THE ANDROID 12 BETA

Okay, I said I wasn’t going to recommend anything rational in this guide, but this is perhaps the recommendation that makes the most sense: if you want to mess around with the Android 12 beta but don’t want to install it on your main phone, you should just buy a Google Pixel 4A. It’s only $350 (that’s just $20 more than it costs to fix a broken screen on an iPhone 12 Pro Max) and can work with Google’s latest and greatest software even before it’s released to the public.

You know the Android betas are going to be messy — battery life is going to be bad, there will be lots of bugs, certain apps might not work correctly — so you don’t want to put it on a device you actually need to rely on. Once the beta period is over, the Pixel 4A is a great device for experimenting with the aftermarket ROM world. Get a Pixel 4A and flash those ROMs to your heart’s content.

Google Pixel 4A

  • $349

A very inexpensive smartphone with one of the best cameras for photography you can get on any smartphone at any price.

The Microsoft Surface Duo

6. MICROSOFT SURFACE DUO

THE BEST PHONE FOR MAKING PEOPLE GO “WHOA, IS THAT A PHONE?”

As a phone enthusiast, you already know this harsh truth: the Microsoft Surface Duo is not a good phone. It has an old processor. The camera is worse than any iPhone of the past five years. The battery life is decidedly Not Great. It gets hot doing simple tasks. There are SO MANY software bugs. It’s got a generation-old version of Android. It doesn’t even support wireless charging or NFC payments! Oh yeah, and there’s that questionable build quality to worry about.

But there’s something undeniably cool about the Surface Duo, like it’s a device from the future coming here to bless us in the early 21st century. It’s so thin, it has two screens, the hinge is incredibly neat. Open it up in public and you’re sure to get someone to ask “wow, is that a phone?” which we all know is the ultimate goal here. You can then show them all of its cool features, right after it’s done rebooting itself for the fifth time that day.

Microsoft Surface Duo (unlocked, 128GB)

  • $636
  • $1,400
  • 55% off

Microsoft’s first Android phone was its ambitious foldable Surface Duo. It features two OLED displays, and its high-end design fits in with the greater Surface family of products.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

7. APPLE IPHONE 12 PRO MAX

THE BEST PHONE FOR TELLING YOURSELF THAT YOU DON’T NEED AN ACTUAL CAMERA

For years now we’ve been told that phone cameras are so good that you don’t need an actual camera. The iPhone 12 Pro Max might be the best example of that yet. It’s got a bigger sensor! It’s got three focal lengths! It can shoot video in Dolby Vision HDR!

At the end of the day, it’s still a phone camera and can’t really hold a candle to the image quality or creative control you get with a larger mirrorless camera. But hey, it’s fun to live in that lie and you can totally see the difference between the 12 Pro Max images and other phones. When you blow them up on a big screen. And zoom in.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

  • $1,099

Apple’s top-of-the-line iPhone 12 Pro Max has a better camera system than you can get in the other iPhone models this year.

Oppo Find X3 Pro

8. OPPO FIND X3 PRO

THE BEST PHONE FOR SAYING “YOU CAN’T GET THIS IN THE US”

Perhaps the ultimate phone flex is pulling a phone out of your pocket that nobody else is going to have. If you’re in the US, the Oppo Find X3 Pro is that phone. It’s got features you can’t get on any American phone and a design you won’t see everywhere, like a microscope camera and softly rounded camera bump. Sure, it won’t really work great on the cellular networks here, importing it is an expensive hassle, and you won’t have any warranty whatsoever. But just think of the envy on your friends’ faces when you tell them they can’t have this phone.

Oppo Find X3 Pro

  • $1,178

Oppo’s Find X3 Pro is the company’s latest flagship and it’s not sold in the US. It has a unique camera system and head-turning design that you won’t see on American phones.

The OnePlus 9 Pro
OnePlus 9 Pro

9. ONEPLUS 9 PRO

THE BEST PHONE FOR WHEN YOU REALIZE THAT PIXEL PHONES AREN’T GREAT, BUT YOU DON’T WANT A SAMSUNG EITHER

Google’s Pixel phones have such great software and then… mediocre everything else. Samsung phones have incredible hardware but are laden with heavy software and actual ads inside of the stock apps. The OnePlus 9 Pro splits that difference — it has software that’s similar to Google’s on hardware that’s virtually a Samsung with a different logo on it.

The 9 Pro is just what the phone enthusiast ordered: a high-end, bells-and-whistles device with All Of The Specs but none of the cruft.

OnePlus 9 Pro

  • $1,069

The latest flagship phone from OnePlus. It features a 6.7-inch QHD+ display, an adaptive refresh rate of 120Hz, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

10. SAMSUNG Z FLIP 5G

THE BEST WEEKEND PHONE FOR WHEN YOU’RE “DISCONNECTING”

Here comes the weekend, with all of its promises of relaxation and enjoyment. You don’t need a phone that’s going to make you more productive, you need something that’s going to slip into your pocket and won’t distract you with a colorful display unless you absolutely need it to.

The Z Flip 5G is this phone. You can flip it closed to ignore it and then pop it open and have a full smartphone inside, complete with every feature you get on non-flippy phones. You’re making a compromise without really making a compromise, because we all know that you had no intention of actually disconnecting for the weekend.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5G

  • $1,200

The Galaxy Z Flip is a folding phone designed to fit a full smartphone easily into your pocket.

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