FAQ | Should I Buy a USB-C Charger for My iPhone (And How Do I Choose One)?

You don’t have to sit around and wait for hours just to charge your iPhone.
Apple iPhone USB C Fast Charger Cable and Power Brick Credit: Abolukbas / Shutterstock
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It will likely still be a year or more before Apple ditches its Lightning port in favor of USB-C, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find more efficient ways to charge your iPhone.

Even though Apple’s Lightning port doesn’t provide the same broad compatibility as a USB-C port, it offers the same power transfer capabilities – you just need to ensure you have the right cable and charger to take advantage of these.

Apple has been packaging Lightning to USB-C cables with new iPhones for nearly three years since the iPhone 11 Pro moved to an 18-watt USB-C charger in 2019. Things were a little odd that first year, as the standard iPhone 11 model still came with an older USB-A Lightning cable and Apple’s legacy five-watt charger.

However, by 2020, Apple had standardized USB-C for the other end of its Lightning cables. The only problem is that it was also the year it removed the actual wall chargers from its packaging.

This meant that new iPhone 12 owners were forced to buy a USB-C power adapter separately. However, if you were upgrading from an older iPhone, you may have been tempted to rely on the cables and chargers you already had, setting aside the new USB-C to Lightning cable in favor of the 5W USB-A charger and cable from an iPhone 11 or prior model.

If you opted for that, you’ve been doing yourself a disservice. All recent iPhone models charge considerably faster when paired with a proper USB-C power adapter.

Instead of sitting around and waiting four hours or more to power up your iPhone 13 Pro Max, the right USB-C charger can get you up to a 50 percent charge in 30 minutes and take you to 80 percent in a little over an hour.

To preserve battery health, charging slows down once you’re in the 80-100% zone, so you’ll be waiting another hour or so to get to a full charge.

History of Fast Charging on iPhones

There’s another secret here: This doesn’t just apply to the iPhone models that include a USB-C to Lightning cable. Despite Apple bundling USB-A cables and older chargers with them, every iPhone released from 2017 onward supports the same fast charging speeds as the latest iPhone 13 models.

This includes the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, and iPhone 11, all of which came with woefully underpowered chargers.

The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max were the only iPhones Apple ever shipped with an appropriate charger; the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 lineups have the right cable, but you’ll have to supply the charger yourself.

It’s not just the more recent iPhone models that can charge faster than the capabilities of Apple’s bundled chargers. As I discovered nearly eight years ago, Apple’s iPhone 6 charged noticeably faster when paired with a 2.1-amp (10W) or 2.4A (12W) iPad power adapter, reaching 90% in around two hours.

Needless to say, Apple’s bundled power adapters have been shortchanging iPhone users on the best charging speeds for years.

There’s nothing wrong with using the included five-watt/one-amp (5W/1A) power adapter if you’re only charging overnight. Your iPhone has plenty of time to charge while you’re sleeping, and the slower charging rate will be better for your battery health. However, 5W/1A charging is horrible for those times you need a quick top-up.

How to Choose the Right Fast Charger

If you’re still using an iPhone 5s or older, or even the first-generation iPhone SE, you’ll be fine sticking with the adapter in the box. These models don’t charge any faster than that, anyway. Despite the 2016 iPhone SE arriving after the iPhone 6s, it’s basically an iPhone 5s with a new chip; however, the power management side remains the same.

Beyond those relatively ancient iPhone models, faster iPhone charging fits into two broad categories: 12W USB-A charging and 18W+ USB-C charging.

iPhones Capable of 12W USB-A charging

  1. iPhone 6 / 6 Plus
  2. iPhone 6s / 6s Plus
  3. iPhone 7 / 7 Plus

iPhones Capable of 18W+ USB-C charging

  1. iPhone SE (2020 & 2022 models)
  2. iPhone 8 / 8 Plus
  3. iPhone X
  4. iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max
  5. iPhone XR
  6. iPhone 11
  7. iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max
  8. All iPhone 12 models
  9. All iPhone 13 models

Note that you can use a USB-C charger with any iPhone model; you could even plug one into the original iPhone if you can find a USB-C to 30-pin Dock Connector cable (spoiler: you can’t).

You won’t hurt your iPhone by using a more powerful adapter, as long as it’s properly designed and certified by the proper standards organizations. The adapter only supplies power; an iPhone will never draw more than it needs.

However, unless you’re using a 2017 or later iPhone model, you won’t see any advantage to using a USB-C adapter over a 12W iPad adapter.

If you are using a newer iPhone model, though, and you find yourself needing to top up your battery throughout the day, then you owe it to yourself to get the best USB-C power adapter you can find. Choose at least a 20W charger for optimal charging speeds across the board, although if you’re toting an iPhone 13 Pro Max, you might want to go even higher. The iPhone 13 Pro Max supports charging speeds of up to 27W, which is essential when considering how much larger the battery is.

Also, remember that you don’t have to buy a USB-C power adapter from Apple for your iPhone. The beauty of USB-C is that it’s an industry standard, so any USB-C power adapter should be able to get the job done.

In fact, Apple has indirectly done many folks a service by taking the power adapter out of the box. That adapter was never truly “free” — it was always reflected in the price of the iPhone, even if we didn’t see it. Now, instead of being saddled with an adapter that you may not want or need, you have options to find one that best meets your particular needs.

For example, Anker sells a very affordable charger that supplies 20W of power in a package about the same size as the old 5W mini-brick that Apple used to put in the iPhone box.

You also don’t need to limit yourself to lower wattages. Belkin offers an affordable 68W charger that will supply enough juice to charge an M2 MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook Pro through its second USB-C port. Thanks to Gallium Nitride (GAN) technology, it’s also surprisingly compact for the amount of power it puts out.

Apple is said to be working on GaN chargers as well, but so far, that’s been limited to the ultra-powerful 140W charger for its 16-inch MacBook Pro.

If you regularly charge your iPhone alongside other devices such as an iPad or your AirPods Max headphones, you may prefer to opt for an all-in-one solution instead, such as Anker’s 543, which can deliver 45W of power across two USB-C and two USB-A ports.

The good news is that when Apple finally does release a USB-C iPhone, you’ll be able to keep using whatever USB-C chargers you have today; only the cable will need to be swapped out for a more universally-compatible USB-C to USB-C cable.

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