EU harmonizing fast charging with USB PD will be a big deal for Android

For those who don’t know, European lawmakers have reached an agreement earlier this week to force manufacturers of electronic devices including smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones, and more to use the same universal charging port – USB-C. It’s true, USB-C all is being enshrined in law and will come into force by autumn 2024 in the EU. Making do with a common USB-C charger will not only reduce e-waste, but also make our lives easier. The benefits of using a single charger with a USB-C to C cable for all gadgets cannot be underestimated.

As someone who uses a android phone with a few other gadgets that already use the same USB-C port for charging, I’m more interested in the part of the legislation that harmonizes fast charging standards with USBPD. It’s something that’s been missed in the mainline coverage, though it might be the biggest news for the Android ecosystem. Even if you take Apple out of the equation for falling behind its competitors in fast charging, you also can’t ignore the disparity in charging speeds between some Android flagships. But how does the EU agree to make USB PD more mainstream to solve our fast charging problems? Let’s try to make sense of this.

Harmonization of fast charging with USB PD

Before we get started, it’s worth pointing out that the legislation doesn’t prevent manufacturers from creating their own proprietary fast-charging standards. This means that manufacturers such as OPPO, Xiaomi and Huawei can continue to push the boundaries with their proprietary charging methods. What the EU agreement does is it induces an element of harmony: you can do it as long as you too supports USB power delivery. The agreement mentions respect for EN IEC 62680-1 and its subsections, primarily referring to the USB Power Supply Specification, Revision 3.0, Version 2.0 (i.e. support up to 100W).

USB power delivery specification under EU agreement

From our reading of the EU agreement, we understand that device manufacturers are being asked to integrate the USB Power Delivery charging communication protocol if they want their devices to have charging powers greater than 15W. Very broadly though, I expect all smartphone makers to settle for a fixed power level (i.e. 45W, or even 65W via PD) through the magic of competition, allowing us to Quickly charge all phones with the same charging speed outside of proprietary methods. Yes, there’s also 25W ‘fast’ charging, but that’s unlikely to become the common floor the competition is forcing everyone to rise to – 45W seems like a much better floor. Yes, there’s nothing stopping them from sticking with the 15W USB PD as well, but we expect competitive forces to force the OEM to do better here.

Think Vanilla Galaxy S22, for example. This particular phone achieves a charging speed of 25W, which is the same as its predecessor, the Galaxy S21. The Galaxy S22 Plus and the Galaxy S22 Ultra, however, supports 45W fast charging. These require a USB PD charger with Programmable Power Supply (PPS) support to charge at 45W, and even then the phones themselves require 40W+ power for only a few moments before dropping to around 30W. One could argue about diminishing returns of charging speeds in terms of power consumption versus charging times, but filling the tank of the vanilla Galaxy S22 from 0% to 100% takes much longer than it should for a phone of this size that costs as much as it does. That’s particularly annoying given the vanilla Galaxy S22’s less-than-ideal battery life.

If harmonizing fast-charging USB PD means that all of these phones would at least adhere to a single faster USB PD charging speed, it would also make the experience of using these compact phones with smaller batteries much better. better. Whenever you run out of these phones, it would be easier to find a compatible charger around you that will do a good job of bringing you enough juice to last you another few hours. While certainly not a perfect replacement, the ability to quickly charge a dying phone with extreme ease would make it more enjoyable to use compact phones with relatively smaller batteries. Remember that the standard also applies to laptops, cameras and other electronic devices, so your chances of finding a compatible charger and cable will increase significantly.

To take another example on Android, the OnePlus 10 Pro can push up to 45W via USB PD with 15V support and up to 3.0A, and that’s when you look beyond proprietary 65W/80 charging W that OnePlus uses as a selling point. PD charging speed, however, is still sensitive to specific voltages and it changes with the change in battery current. USB PD 3.0, in case you didn’t know, ditched fixed power profiles in favor of a more flexible rule that maintains a fixed voltage while allowing a wider range of current levels. The USB Power Delivery programmable power protocol alleviates some of these issues with configurable voltage levels. It’s probably not as easy to settle for a common USB PD charging speed as we imagine considering how the charging speed is sensitive to specific voltages and also changes depending on the load battery current, but this requires further discussion at a technical level. to fill in the gaps.

Fast charging for iPhones, or lack thereof

iPhone SE 2022 charging port

The idea of ​​harmonizing fast charging is particularly interesting for iPhones which remain the popular holdouts of USB-C charging. Even the most powerful iPhones on the market currently use a Lightning port, the proprietary connector that Apple introduced in 2012 with the iPhone 5. iPhones have indeed improved in terms of charging speed over the years, but the current charging speeds are still nothing. to sneeze.

Even if you spend an arm and a leg to buy an expensive 30W Apple charger for your iPhone 13 Pro Max, it will take you up to 1h30 to go from 0 to 100%. But do you know what can fix this underlying charging problem which is plaguing not iPhones but also many other Android phones right now? Yes, okay, just give us phones that can take advantage of USB PD charging to quickly top up the battery so we can all carry a single charger or borrow one without having to worry about charging speeds.

Look, it’s nice to be able to use proprietary solutions to quickly charge a phone. But I should also be able to use any standard USB PD charger and achieve, say, 45W to charge my phone. It doesn’t match what some manufacturers like OPPO are cooking up behind the scenes with their 240W chargers but I think 45W is enough to charge a phone, very quickly. The trade-off for sub-proprietary speed would be offset by the absolute widespread availability of USB PD-enabled charger hardware, marking it as a net gain for consumers.

Final Thoughts

While improving charging speeds or mastering charging standards in the market aren’t the main reason European lawmakers have moved the needle, it remains to be seen how things can change for the better by fall 2024. I have no qualms against phones that use proprietary charging, but I’ll be happy to take more “W”s (no pun intended) if the harmonization of fast charging with USB PD saves me from having to use different chargers depending on the phones I use.

Laptops will also have to comply with the rule, but that will happen at a later date, and that’s a whole different conversation, because it’ll be interesting to see how budget designs handle the policy, because most laptops from USB-C charging on the market are more expensive. ultralight models. That being said, I’m just happy to be able to use the same charger for some other devices that I carry with me at all times, including the laptop, cameras, handheld game console, etc., and to fill the tank quickly without having to wait for a long time.

The legislation still needs to be voted on by the European Parliament and the Council, but let’s start a conversation around this topic. So what do you think of the decision to standardize USB-C and PD? Also, how do you think manufacturers – in particular Apple – will react to EU policy? Let us know by dropping a line in the comments below.

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