One slightly controversial subject surrounding the iPhones 8, 8 Plus, and X is the inclusion of fast charging capability. What has made it so is the fact that, like the iPad Pro before them, these devices don’t ship with a charging brick or cable that are capable of meeting the required specs. I will get into what I think are the reasons behind this omission in a moment, but first, let’s take a look at how it works based on some testing I’ve been doing with a couple of compatible chargers.
First thing’s first, you have to get the right hardware to do the job. The only cable that Apple certifies capable of delivering the required power is their own USB-C to Lightning cables.
There are currently no MFi options, at least not yet. These come in two different versions: 1 meter for $25 and 2 meters for $35. I was able to find the 1 meter version at a local BestBuy, and actually picked up a second that was available for $20 as an Open Box deal. Keep an eye out for these deals if you want to save a little, but still get all of the associated warranties.
I actually had trouble finding an Apple 29 Watt USB-C charger locally, so I ended up going with a third party option from Amazon. I bought AUKEY’s Amp PD Duo USB-C Wall Charger, which works great, but has unfortunately gone off sale at Amazon since. It is still shown on AUKEY’s website, so I hope that either it or an updated version will be back up for sale soon.
I chose this charger because at $22.99, it was the least expensive option. It is also quite versatile, as it comes with a snap-on adapter that converts the one USB-C port to two USB-As. I can also report that it charges my iPhone X right in line with the results others have been reporting with Apple’s own compatible charger. More on this in a minute.
I am on the go a lot during the work day, and I use my phone constantly, I also keep my 12.9” iPad Pro with me pretty much all the time at work, as well. I have depended on an older New Trent battery pack for years to keep me powered up on the go, and it served me very well. However, its capacity and output have fallen behind the demands of both my use, and newer devices. As such, I decided to step up my game and get a Power Delivery-compatible battery pack. This pulls triple duty for me, as it will not only charge my iPhone X and iPad Pro, but also my Nintendo Switch.
Be sure to get this specific model, as the other similar ones in their lineup do NOT support the Power Delivery standard. It certainly isn’t cheap, coming in at $79.99 (it is actually on sale for $55.99 right now as part of an Amazon Lightning Deal). However, it has three charging ports (2 USB-A, 1 USB-C), high capacity, fast charging capability, and will handle all of my important devices. Also, the fast charging works in both directions with this battery pack, which is a great added bonus. It can be fully recharged in only 4.5 hours with a USB-C Power Delivery charger and USB-C cable. As with the AUKEY charging brick, I can also report that the fast charge times are right in line with what should be expected with a fast charging product.
The only negative is that, while it isn’t overly large, it is pretty heavy. This isn’t going in a pocket, even a cargo pocket, without you knowing it’s there at all times. However, you have to expect some amount of weight at this kind of capacity. it balances out in my opinion.
I figured I might as well go all-in on fast charging at this point, so I went ahead and got AUKEY’s Power Delivery Car Charger, as well. Since I tend to spend plenty of time in the car during the work day, being able to top off my iPhone X’s charge fast while driving was a no-brainer. It is only $16.99 and has both a Type A and Type C ports, so if it delivers the goods the same way my other two chargers have, then it will be WELL worth that price.
When the Rubber Meets the Road
There have been plenty of other charging tests from other authors detailing how fast charging works on iOS, so there isn’t anything groundbreaking here. These are simply a few of my recent results. The only notable things about my tests are the facts that I’m using third-party chargers with Apple USB-C to Lightning Adapter, and that I’m covering the performance of a battery pack. There haven’t been as many fast charging tests involving batter packs, so helpfully this is a help to some of you.
AUKEY Amp PD Duo Test 1:
The iPhone X was at 3% to start. It reached 60% in 36 minutes. It reached 98% in 1 hour and 31 minutes.
AUKEY Amp PD Duo Test 2:
The iPhone X was at 2% to start. It reached 50% in 29 minutes and 100% in 1 hour and 38 minutes.
RAVPower Batter Pack Test 1:
The iPhone X was at 3 % to start. It reached 50% in 28 minutes, and 96% in 1 hour and 28 minutes.
RAVPower Batter Pack Test 2:
The iPhone X was at 10% to start. In this case I was using the phone during charging. It reached 100% in 1 hour and 43 minutes. Also of note, the fully charged RAVPower battery pack remained on charge level 4 (the highest level) after the iPhone X reached 100%. This should be the case going strictly by the mAh numbers, but there is always energy lost due to heat and such during charging from a portable battery. This test shows the RAVPower pack to be efficient, which is very important to get the most out of it.
Money and Effort
So if you are keeping track here, I spent $164.97 on fast charging for my iPhone and iPad Pro. Yes, I know. That’s a lot of money. Honestly, if I weren’t reviewing this aspect of the iPhone X, I probably wouldn’t have bought all of this in a short period of time. However, since this is where Apple’s products are headed, the money won’t be wasted. All of these items should last me for a while and work for the next four to six generations of Apple products. The chargers themselves actually work for just about anything, so this isn’t money wasted in the long run.
However, there is a very legitimate argument to be made about having to spend anything extra with Apple to take advantage of this capability with their devices. Every major Android device that supports fast charging comes with a compatible charging brick in the box. Not only does Apple not do this, they continue to stick with the very outdated 5W charger that we’ve known for many years now.
The fact is, Apple has existing alternatives. While I have not included charging stats here, I can tell you from years of experience that using the iPad’s stock 12W charging brick provides a significant bump in iPhone charging speed. In fact, according to most who included it in their tests, it only falls around 20% short of fast charging speeds. Also, you get the advantage of using your existing USB-A to Lightning charge cables. If you don’t want to go all in on fast charging, this is the next best solution. At only $19.00, it is a reasonable one, as well.
So why is Apple being such a pain about this? I think I have an idea why, not based on any hard evidence, but just on what I’ve observed from them over the years. If you haven’t noticed, Apple doesn’t usually make multiple changes that rock the boat in a given year. They changed from the Dock Connector to Lightning with the iPhone 5, introduced TouchID and a new look for iOS with the 5S, rolled out new form factors with the 6, and removed the headphone jack with the 7. This year with the iPhone X is the first time that Apple has made multiple shifts with their hardware in a single yearly refresh.
For this reason, I think that Apple decided to shelve the move the fast charging hardware for another year. I think we will see the next big shift in Apple accessories in 2018, with all new charging bricks moving to USB-C connectors. More on this in a moment.
I think Apple decided that they had to dump the headphone jack a year ahead of the iPhone X rollout to get the controversy surrounding that one decision out of the way ahead of time. The shift to Lightning was also only four years ago, so it is my belief that they decided to offer fast charging capability now, but hold off on changing all of the stock charging accessories for one more year.
As potential evidence, I offer you the aforementioned USB-C to Lightning Cable that is required for fast charging. One thing I can tell you about this cable is that it is made from heavier gauge wire, and is noticeably heavier duty than its USB-A sibling. Working around low voltage electricity for a living, I can tell you that this isn’t an accident or an inconsequential change. More heat is generated by a greater electrical load, and there comes a point when the heavier gauge wire must be used to handle that load. If you don’t, you can end up with some nasty problems. I don’t think there is any question that this cable was specifically designed with fast charging in mind.
So what does this have to do with Apple changing what come in every iPhone and iPad box? Rather than cause confusion with multiple versions of their USB-A Lightning Cables, some newer and heavier ones compatible with fast charging and others not, I believe that Apple decided to make a clean break with USB-C to avoid all that. They made the original USB-C to Lightning Cables to handle fast charging, and required them for a reason. I am convinced that a USB-A Lightning Cable that supports fast charging will never be made or allowed through the MFi program.
The issue that comes with this is another shift in how users charge their iOS devices. With a complete shift to USB-C outputs on stock chargers, users will end up with a bunch of charging accessories that no longer work together. This is just a reality of consumer electronics, as standards will inevitably change for everyone, not just Apple users. We are already at the leasing edge of a shift that will see the majority of electronic devices switch from the now ubiquitous MicroUSB connector to USB-C, so this isn’t a new problem. But based on what we have seen from Apple, I think they try to avoid doing this until for at least five years. There were five iPhones that used the Dock Connector. Next year will be the six year mark for the current USB-A to Lightning charging solution.
An Explanation, Not a Defense
The above is what I think Apple’s current approach to fast charging is. However, I am not defending it. I think they pushed this approach too far with the release of the iPhone X. I can actually understand not making instant changes to the iPad Pro when fast charging was included. That is a device designed with professionals and corporations in mind, many of whom can afford the additional expense of another charger and cable. It also comes with an adapter that is adequate for charging the device. I was never put off by that.
I can also understand leaving the iPhones 8 and 8 Plus as is. They are a continuation of the older style device for those who prefer that over a new direction right now. However, I definitely think it was a mistake on Apple’s part not to include a fast charging USB-C brick and USB-C to Lightning Cable in the box with the iPhone X. This is Apple’s main consumer-facing device, and it is one that is premium in most every respect. Including the old 5W charging brick with it, even if just for one more year, is quite frankly impossible to justify other than as a cost-saving measure.
I’m a Libertarian, so I don’t have any issues with a publicly-traded company making money off of products that consumers choose to buy. That said, there is a point where product decisions can become user-hostile, and I personally think Apple crossed that line with the X. I’m not super angry with Apple. I’m not taking my money and going elsewhere, either. However, I’m also not going to gloss over the fact that this was nothing more than a way to squeeze a little bit more profit out of the X at its initial release.
Apple may have a game plan like I theorized above, but that plan could have been put in place this year, and would have dovetailed perfectly with all of the other changes that came with the iPhone X. People knock Tim Cook too often for things that they perceive are “wrong with Apple’s.” However, based on his background in supply chains, efficiency, and raw numbers, this feels like a decision that is a product of his leadership.
If you have any doubts about whether fast charging makes a difference on the iPhone X, put them out of your mind. If you are constantly on the go and need to be able to recharge quickly in various situations, then fast charging is a huge help. You can plug in your phone and know that in 30 minutes, you can be topped off to the point where you don’t have to constantly worry about how much battery life you have left. And with a fast charging battery pack, you can take this capability with you pretty much anywhere.
The issue is the investment that is required, since Apple hasn’t switched any of their default charging hardware over to fast charging-compatible gear yet. Rest assured that this is the direction that Apple is moving in. They are rolling out USB-C across their laptops, and have a USB-C Lightning Cable that is designed to handle the increased demands of fast charging. This is coming to all iPhones eventually, so if you spend money right now, it won’t be wasted.
If you don’t want to spend the minimum $50 or so to get a compatible charger and cable,or if you are put out by what feels like a user-hostile decision on Apple’s part, then consider a $19 iPad Charger in the meantime. It will get you most of the way there at less than half the price, and work with all of your existing Lightning cables. Either way, no matter how you feel about how Apple has handled this transition, fast charging works, and will be worth it for those who really need it.