Just How Fast Could You Charge An IPhone?

PSU charging an externally connected supercapacitor bank that's powering the phone. There's a current clamp on one of the wires to measure charging current, and a multimeter measuring the charging voltage.

An iPhone 8, now a relatively cheap model, can charge its battery fully in two hours’ time. There’s hardly ever a need for faster charging, but it’s fair to ask – how much faster could it really go? [Scotty Allen] from [Strange Parts], back after a hiatus, is back to stretching the limits of what a regular iPhone can do, and decides to start off with an exploration of battery technologies.

What people commonly encounter is that charging speed depends on the charger involved, but even one hundred chargers in parallel won’t speed up this iPhone’s charging rate, so what’s up? First off, the phone’s charger chip and the battery’s BMS will both limit charging current, so for experiment purposes, those had to be bypassed. First attempt was using a hefty DC power supply with the original cell, and, unsatisfied with the lack of fire and still relatively slow charging, [Scotty] decides to up the ante.

There’s a few battery technologies you could pair with a phone if your aim is to speed up charging dramatically, and [Scotty] demonstrates one of them in action – for instance, Lithium-titanate batteries can take quite a pounding when it comes to charging current, and they’ve helped get the charging time down to 22 minutes. However, that’s no match for a supercapacitor pack, which the charging time down to nine minutes – a thirteenfold increase from the 90 minutes we expect. We might not hold a supercap-based iPhone anytime soon, but now, we sure have seen one.

Facing this demo, Apple ought to be ashamed of their Lightning charging ports. Perhaps, with a few hobbyist-friendly supercapacitor tricks in hand, supercapacitors will be handy for someone’s statistically inevitable project where charging time will be of major importance. Until then, we’ll probably keep focusing our efforts on building powerbanks.

23 thoughts on “Just How Fast Could You Charge An IPhone?

  1. The fact that Apple is intentionally handicapping the performance of USB-C on their phones, because they are throwing a fit over being forced to adopt that port in the EU, should tell you everything you need to know about their attitude towards making hardware that is good for their customers.

      1. We don’t know about next-gen iPhones yet, but the USB-C iPads tell the tale: https://www.macworld.com/article/1365915/10th-gen-ipad-data-speeds-usb-c-lightning.html

        “It’s not. In its review of the new tenth-generation iPad, The Verge reports that its USB-C implementation “is limited to USB 2.0 data speeds and 4K 30Hz (or 1080p 60Hz) external displays.” USB 2.0 data speed is 480Mbps, which, coincidentally, is the data speed of Lightning.”

        We can speculate on why they didn’t support USB 3 speeds, but they didn’t.

  2. In fact Apple will never ever go USB-C on any iPhone, in 2025 they will go fully port-less and only supply the wire-less charger as only wired chargeable devices need to comply with the EU standard ;) Would be also the only logical step as MFI brings Apple 10-15 % of every sold certified device. Also USB-C would a step-down if it comes to increase iPhone’s waterproof capabilities. So going fully port-less would improve this as-well.

    1. 1.: going fully wireess is not compliant with EU standart
      2. USB-C or not, they probably dont want to stop selling dongles and acessories for it with their proprietary fw/drivers
      3.: Its not like the port is not used for anything else by apple like debugging /s

      never understood people that actually thing that’s a good move, they probably can, but its still a really bad move.

      1. 1. Going full wireless *IS* compliant with EU standard.
        2. They will offer multiple different chargers, which vary in charging speed, design, functionality etc.
        3. That’s done by service centers. The port for that can be put inside the device.

        1. 1: go read it again
          2: LOL, so today there is only chargers? Are you forgetting audio/cameras/reader/etc?
          3: So now any low-level service needs to dissasenble the phone, genius.

  3. I’ve read it three times and still don’t understand how, with this experiment testing different battery chemistries, the conclusion is that “..Apple ought to be ashamed of their Lightning charging ports”. The gist of the article doesn’t even mention the charging port. I could do the research on my own to figure out why they “should be ashamed”, but it would be great if the article supported its own conclusions.

    1. Ah, that was not a serious quip. It was a joke in the vein of “if this port is so [lightning] fast, how come it doesn’t charge in nine minutes? shame”, which is like, I’m not about to seriously suggest that Apple use supercaps in iPhones, but it’s fun to ironically suggest so. It does tie in with the playful and not-that-serious theme of the video itself, too!

  4. Why not state the “usable capacity” at much lower than the actual capacity. That way you can charge it from ‘dead’ (30%) to ‘full’ (70%) massively faster. You could increase the battery size and charger output which effectively does the same.

  5. I made some more critical comments about all this earlier, but they apparently were not to someone’s liking and got deleted. So I will restrain myself and just say one or two things.

    Was I the only one who watched this video and saw him wiring up 100 chargers and thought to yourself, “this will never work, I can save him all that time and work’ A load pulls what it is designed to pull. You can offer it 100 amps, but if it is only designed to pull an amp, that is what it will do. But certain sorts of people and their money are soon parted.

      1. The comment started with “This is one of the most stupid things I have ever seen.” and went along the same lines for a few more long sentences, not to repost it in full here. I’ve deleted it once I saw it – such comments add nothing to what I conveyed with the article, and usually derail the comment section into an unproductive direction, for that reason, I’d do it again anytime. Other commenters left productive comments – if you can’t do that on any specific article, I suggest you save the typing for a different one. These are the kind of comments that readers report into oblivion, anyway.

        Here’s a rule of thumb – it has to engage with what I wrote in the article, and your comment didn’t. It can be critical, neutral or supportive, there’s plenty of comments of all of these kinds under my articles if you just look. “This is stupid” won’t go, anybody can leave such a comment, and it makes the comment section worse with no benefit to offset that.

    1. I saw it as a fun demonstration for less-than-technical viewers – from the video alone, you can see that Scotty understands how it works, I understand how it works, I’m pretty sure majority of us do. Thing is, people get told “get a more powerful charger to have your phone charge faster” when it comes to phones specifically – that’s not how things work in electronics, but that’s a simplification of how smartphones are designed (more often for bad reasons than good reasons, I feel like). Apart from just being a fun exaggerated demo, this is a way to address that. Buying 100 cheap chargers isn’t much for a YouTuber financially, by the way – it’s cheap to do in bulk, they can be written off as a business expense, and they might even get put to good use afterwards.

  6. @bob
    It is already damn tricky to shove 100W through those tiny contact points in an USB-C connector, which is one of the reasons you need certified cables above a certain wattage I expect (with inbuilt chip if I’m not mistaking). But anything above that will make the whole recent Nvidia connector debacle child-play I bet.

    And yeah USB4 specifies up to 240W but I am forecasting lots of disastrous incidents, also because the chips will be either faked or harvested and be put in non-specialized cables/connectors, but even with regular approved cables I can imagine they will only be OK for a few months before you can expect a percentage of incidents. But maybe I’m just being pessimistic, we’ll see.

  7. i always balk at any reference to mobile-device’s charging times.
    even from the ones on my side who are also attempting to uncover the truth,
    (eventhough i appreciate all efforts).

    maybe someday people will find-out that all advertising claims are ALL based-on
    when 100% is DISPLAYED, and not what is actually happening inside the device.
    i can re-program my flip-phone to indicate it reached 100% charge in only seconds…

    the actual percentage that the battery-cell is charged depends on how fast it was just bulk charging…

    the faster the bulk-charge (waiting till it displays 100%) the less charged it is
    the top-off charge (after it lies and says 100%) will ALWAYS depend on chemistry and facts.
    if it says LiOn, then chances-are; its either lieing (mobile-devices), or only bulk-charging (cheaper stuff like flashlight or USB-power-bank)

    at a fast charge-rate the bulk-charge might terminate at around 50% charge (60-70% for normal smart-devices)
    thats going from 30% (aka 0%) to 50% (aka 100%) (when charged that fast)
    so that 9-minute charge is actually only adding 20%,
    which works-out to be a 45-minute charge RATE.

    i have lots of outdated stuff that charges that fast,
    why are these companies allowed to advertise 9-minute charge when in reality actually charges about the same speed as a flip-phone from 15 years ago???

    so people dont see the “ugly” charging icon on the screen as i wait for it to ACTUALLY charge the rest of the way? its still going to take 1 or 2 hours to get it anywhere near full. but of course you have to void the warranty and break the glass back-cover to measure the cell’s voltage, and then your only recourse is consumer-reports… where they have no idea about charge-profiles and voltmeters… and they dont trust anyone who have removed a back-cover…

    im a person with tools and parts who is not scared to shut it off for a few hours to run an expierement on a new 400$ “smart” device.

    PS: i have gone back to an honest device; it’s battery is around 90% full when the icon changes to 100%; removeable cell allows one to remove and test, even measure in-situ if your really careful, and understand cell-ESR and safety-circuit-ESR.

    1. forgot to add: and PWM-based charging interacting with digital-voltmeter’s averaging… might not have any effect depending on frequencies, but is worthy of mention when attempting to do manual out-of-phone charging…

      1. I think you forgot an easy way to check how fast something is charging. By inserting something between the wall and the phone. I can 100 percent guarantee you that the earliest li-ion packs charged at a small fraction of today’s packs. Whether that is through chemistry, addition of cells, and actual charging methods (methods which balance charging speed vs battery life) I can’t give you how much depends on what improvements but here is a simple proof for that. The micro usb connecter never got above 12watts max, and even that was rare, while I think xiomi has something stupid like 100 watts. I understand that that is the peak charging value for when the battery is considered empty (obviously not actually empty because of safety and battery longevity for lithium ion batteries). And then it basically tapers towards a minimum of possibly 0. But that high starting point still makes a difference. I’d be curious to see how many watt hours transfer before it reaches the industry standard (I think) of 15 watts. Compared to the 12 watts of the end of usb micro or the 2.5 watts at the beginning, 5 minutes at 100 is the same as 40+ minutes at 12 watts or 200 minutes at 2.5 watts.

        However if your rant was about battery chemistry issues, yes li-ion does leave more unusable charge than nimh or the other options, and yes does have more delicate charging requirements so you probably have to charge slower over the 0 to 100 range averaged, i dont know, but the piece you did not touch on is capacity. The phones would be massive and heavy if we wanted anywhere near the same battery life with our smart phones.

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