Apple has been slowly adding popular features found on Android phones for a few years now. yet the two biggest items on the Apple wish list would probably have to be that of wireless and rapid charging. With the release of the iPhone 8, 8+ and the X, apple fans finally saw their wishes become reality. Do these new power options really help you get through a day's worth of use more easily? The short answer is yes . Read on to learn more about my first month of using the official Apple USB C rapid charger and the Belkin Boost Up wireless pad.
Just one quick word before I begin to expound on how cool these new charging options are. All my impressions below are anecdotal and I did not use any benchmarking tools during my experiments. I also did not have either phone running beta software. These were standard phones running under generally available public iOS releases during the latter half of December and throughout the entire month of January 2018.
Rapid Charging With the Apple 29w USB C Charger
I'll sum up my feelings in one sentence. This is the fastest and easiest way to charge up your iPhone. Yet, if you aren't careful, it can be the one option that can cost the most. Especially if you want to use Apple first party components. The tech you need on hand in order to enjoy this feature does not come with your standard out of the box accessories with the purchase of your shiny new iPhone. You will need an Apple USB-C charging plug, like those found with newer Macbooks, and a USB-C to Lightning cable.
USB-C to Lightning cables are available in several lengths and can range from $20 to $35 or more if you purchase them through the Apple Store itself. Having a longer cable is probably a very useful item, however, is an additional $15 worth the convenience, is the question you must ask yourself. The same goes for the USB-C charger. If you don t already have one, and I did not, you can find several models of various power output on the Apple Store as well. There is some debate as to how much benefit you get from using a higher wattage plug out there among the tech sites. And this article seems to indicate that it is fairly negligible despite the higher wattage and cost to go beyond the 29w option.
Being skeptical myself, I decided to purchase the 29w plug as that was the minimum I needed to enable rapid charging.
The 29w charger is a bit bulkier than the charger plug that comes with an iPad. It fits fine in a standard outlet, I tend to use the bottom portion with the prongs of the plug at the top, but you will have to reserve the end of the traditionally shaped circuit bar to accommodate it if you decide to use it there instead. The plug does not generate a great deal of heat, okay no more than the warmth that is generally associated with charging an iPad or Macbook, and it does not emit any audible sounds. The same cannot always be said for third party plugs that do the same thing. This is why I concentrated more on using Apple's own rather than having the fun of personally verifying those Amazon reviews.
Connecting the cord to the charger is simple. At first touch you might think that the USB-C cable feels just like the end of the Lightning connector. If you hold both ends of the cable together, side by side, you will find that the USB-C portion is a little thicker and a slight bit wider than the Apple connector. Also, you are unable to slip a lightning end into a USB-C slot. So finishing this step is easy.
Once you have the cord securely in the plug, the next thing to do is insert the Lightning cable into your iPhone. You will hear the normal charging sound followed by the normal charging sound. That s right, each time you utilize rapid charging your iPhone will indicate the sound you hear for charging twice. I've come to expect this now after a few uses. But it was strange to hear the indicator twice in the beginning of my amateur testing. The rest of the charging process is the same as that found with non 8 or X models. Except for the small matter that the battery meter will approach 100% in a shorter amount of time.
I tested both phones on a circuit bar and normal electrical outlets. Both phones were drained under 50, 30 and in one accidental situation 2% before a charge was initiated. Other scenarios included leaving the phone active with a video streaming app and letting the phone lie dormant during the charging cycle. The results were generally constant with an average of 1.1% charge per minute no matter which phone model being used. My best results found my idle 8+ moving from 31% to 76% in 30 minutes with the charger plugged into a standard electrical outlet.
The behavior that I observed, that was harder to pin down, was the impression that the phone charges faster at lower percentages of the battery meter. The iPhone being tested tended to race to the 50% mark rather quickly. Then the speed tapered off as the battery level increased. I ended up draining the phone below 30% before I started the charge cycle more and more after I noticed this during testing. Additionally, after I saw that the rapid charging worked as the marketing indicated, I all but abandoned the standard Apple iPhone charger for most of my home-related charging. The slight complication of my Fiance taking the USB-C with her on out of town travel also inhibited me just a bit. It did allow me to move on to testing wireless charging though.
Wireless Charging With The Belkin Boost Up Pad
Apple's own AirPower charger is set for release sometime in 2018. That meant, if I wanted to test this feature, I' d need to do some research into the various models out there. Again, like with the third party USB-C chargers, I saw a few reviews on the web mention that the wireless chargers could emit a whining noise or an audible hum in a quiet room. Others had large power bricks at one end of the cord. Or, in the one review I read at Best Buy about an Insignia unit, the power brick was part of the plug and it stuck out several inches from the wall if placed into a regular electrical outlet. All of these horror stories led me to consider the Belkin Boost Up model for two reasons. One, the unit was one of the few that did not come in industrial black matte finish. And no one noted that it made any detectable noise in or out of the charging cycle. The price, when not on sale, is pretty much the same for the wireless pad as it was for my purchase of the first party Apple rapid charging gear. Here is a link to purchase it from Amazon.
The unit itself comes in a nice box with the typical leaflets that serve as your technical manuals these days. The box contains a power cord, with a small brick near the plug side, and the pad. Installation is pretty easy with no problems on figuring out what connects to what ends. Even more easy is the first use of the pad with your iPhone. The round pad has a raised ring towards the center. Placing your phone directly in the middle of the pad isn't difficult, and when done correctly, results in the all too familiar charging noise. No connectors needed. Just the space for the actual pad itself and for that of your phone resting atop it. The pad has lights on one side that indicate visually how far along the phone is during the charge cycle. That really wasn't a feature I used because I could wake up the phone and read the battery status using Voiceover. Or, if I wanted to be hands free, I could also ask for the current battery level using Hey Siri .
Testing in the same manner as the rapid charger displayed some interesting results. In cases where I did not use a surge protector I found that my phones charged a tiny bit faster. The rate of charging varied from .5 to .7% per minute on a regular basis. The same remained true even when I removed the shell case that I use to protect my iPhone. What also did not change was the heat that the handset accumulates during the charging process. I honestly wasn't prepared for that and the first time I removed the phone from the pad I was shocked to find the level of warmth it radiated to the touch. It isn't like that of a fresh pot of coffee in a mug, however, it is more like that same mug of coffee left standing for 15 minutes in a kitchen at room temperature. The heat will dissipate quickly after you remove the phone from the pad. So you don't need to break out the oven mitts when you want to pick up your device. And the phone will get warm regardless if it is case-bound or caseless. Apple suggests that the case should be no more than .3mil thick. Thus your mileage may vary depending on how dense your phone protector is, if you have one at all, when you start the charging cycle.
My recommendations are that either charging option is a very good nice to have but nowhere near a must have in your arsenal of iPhone accessories. If you travel, then the USB-C rapid charger is a Must buy with no hesitation as the ability to get a little over 1 percent per minute could be a lifesaver in an airport or hotel. I m not sure if that is the same case for homebound users. And I m really not sure if it is worth almost $70 for that convenience.
Wireless charging, however, is a neat thing to have around the house for just about the same cost as a rapid charger. Throwing a device in its case down on a little platform and having it charge is futuristic and fun. It also just so happens to be easier for those out there who may fumble or have difficulties with grasping Lightning cords. You won't necessarily see an increase in how fast your phone charges though. The Boost Up sports a 7 watt output over the standard iPhone 5 watt plug. Therefore, at a price anywhere between $50 to $70, you really need to think about how this would work for you. At the moment the pad sits in the kitchen and serves as the family's default location for setting the phone down while cooking. It hasn't replaced the method for how we charge our phones at night nor in our office. And I m likely to adopt a wait and see approach for another wireless station until Apple releases the AirPower wireless charger later this year.
The good news is that either charging feature works well and you should be able to enjoy it with your new iPhone regardless of which path you take. I just urge caution on choosing a third party brand as cheaper doesn't always mean better quality.
Some of the resources I used to write this article can be found below.
Fast charge your iPhone X, iPhone 8, or iPhone 8 Plus
How fast charging works on the iPhone 8 and iPhone X
Belkin s latest chargers look tailor-made for the iPhone X
Best iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X Wireless Chargers
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Joe Steinkamp is no stranger to the world of technology, having been a user of video magnification and blindness related electronic devices since 1979. Joe has worked in radio, retail management and Vocational Rehabilitation for blind and low vision individuals in Texas. He has been writing about the A.T. Industry for10 years and podcasting about it for nearly 5 years.