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iPhone Power Cables and Adapters: Is Fast Charging Worth The Price?

A 26-dollar USB-C power adapter from Apple now comes with an 18-watt power system. A USB-C to Lightning cable is needed to connect it to your iPhone. Although we have not tested it yet, it should be able to charge your iPhone just as fast as the rest of Apple's USB-C products.

Apple has added fast charging to the iPhone this year. Using Apple's quick charging technology, you can charge up your phone to 50% in just 30 minutes. One minor catch: You will need a new USB-C to Lightning cable and a new power adapter. This is getting expensive, as there are two catches to it.

Would it be worth it? In reality, while USB-C fast charging works, the most recommended adapter is Apple's 12W USB-A Power Adapter, which usually comes with iPads. Besides being substantially cheaper ($19), it's also nearly as fast.

The iPhone X, 8, and 8 Plus all support fast charging from USB-C power adapters that support the new USB Power Delivery (USB-PD) specification. It’s the same way the new MacBooks get charged over USB-C.

What is the performance of the newer iPhone XR and XS? Based on our cursory follow-up tests, there are no significant differences between the iPhone XR and iPhone XS Max when it comes to charging speed, though the larger batteries take a little bit longer to charge (as expected).

In terms of battery size, both the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X are essentially the same. In both cases, the battery capacity is about 1 percent greater-both is 2700 mAh. 2900 mAh is the larger battery capacity in the iPhone 7 Plus. Even with a power draw of just as much as the others, the iPhone 7 Plus would take just a little longer to charge.

To prevent background activity like app updates and photo syncing, we drained the batteries for each of these phones until 1 percent remained, then made sure no apps were running and that airplane mode was enabled.

There's no doubt that Apple's 29W USB-C Power Adapter is probably overkilling, and is capable of supplying more power than the phone can handle. That is definitely the case with the 61W USB-C Power Adapter for the 13-inch MacBook Pro. To get the maximum benefit from higher-wattage adapters, we wanted to see how well the new iPhones handled the USB-PD spec. 

It's for this reason that we tested the 18W USB-C Power Adapter for the Google Pixel. The USB-PD spec lets it deliver 18 watts of power, which is plenty for a phone. As a theoretical matter, it should be just as fast as Apple's USB-C adapters.

It is, of course, possible to buy less expensive USB-C adapters than those made by Apple. You should be able to use any USB-C adapter that supports USB Power Delivery. Regardless of the USB-C power adapter you use, you will require a USB-C Lightning cable. The cable costs $19 for a 1-meter cable, or $35 for a 2-meter cable, from Apple. If you hear a cry, your wallet is in tears.

How To Pick The Best iPhone Power Adapter

The $19 Apple 12W USB Power Adapter is well worth buying whether you have the latest iPhone or an older model. For both new and old phones, the USB-A Lightning cable is the same one that came with your phone, and it enables much faster charging. The included 5W adapter is only about 70 percent faster. The cost of a USB-C charger and USB-C Lightning cable is huge (the cable alone costs as much as the 12W adapter!) and the 12W adapter is approximately 20% slower.

I'd rather have a 10-minute advantage in the race, so it's not worth that much. In terms of taking advantage of USB-C on your new iPhone, the only real benefit would be if the adapter could be used on other products as well -- like a new MacBook. Your investment in USB-C Lightning cables will benefit Apple's upcoming 2018 release of new iPads that support USB-PD.

What's really unacceptable is the awful charging performance Apple gives you right out of the box. They charge too much for their phones to get away with a meager 5-watt USB-A charger. Apple should absolutely include a decent USB-C cable and charger with the iPhone 8 Plus for $850 and the iPhone X for $1,000. A 15-18W charger would let you charge your phone at the fastest rate possible, and it doesn't have to be the 29W charger they sell separately. Furthermore, the accessories and adapters Apple sells are far too expensive, but at least there are alternatives available.

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