Picture this scenario: You’re traveling tomorrow and you finally finish packing at 11 PM. You go over to check your phone that has been sitting neatly attached to its charger for the last two hours. You see that it has only 20% battery left. That can’t be right!
You run to the only electronics store in your neighborhood that’s open at that hour only to find they don’t carry the charger that works on your phone, but they have alternatives that will work just fine. You call up a friend, and he tells you that he heard that you need to use the official charger for your phone to avoid the risk of damaging it. Who’s telling the truth?
This is the kind of situation millions of people encounter every year. A little bit of knowledge about how electric circuits work should clear the waters and bust a few myths in the process.
Simplifying Electrical Circuits
At the electrical level integrated circuits are simple. A certain amount of voltage and amperage comes in, and a cat video or a Snapchat message comes out. The electricity goes through a bunch of circuitry that has been built specifically so it can handle these tasks at that voltage and at that amperage. If too much voltage goes in, some of the circuitry might short out and suffer permanent damage. If you have too little amperage, the circuit will not be able to maintain its current, so the device will cease to function temporarily until it gets enough of it.
Voltage is basically like water pressure. Apply too much pressure on a pipe, and it will burst. Amperage is similar to the amount of water flowing through the pipes at any given moment. If you don’t have enough of that water, it won’t reach its destination and accomplish its task (for example, feeding a boiler on a steam engine). I know I oversimplified this a lot, but it’s all we really need to discuss when we’re talking about phone chargers.
A charger needs to have two things:
- The exact amount of voltage output that the phone needs
- A level of amperage that exceeds what the phone needs to operate so that it may store the excess current in its battery.
Why Finding Compatible Alternatives Is So Easy
Most phones that use Android will charge using a micro USB port. This is a very standardized method of connecting and powering devices, requiring exactly five volts. Since we know this information, we can now deduce that every device that uses a micro USB port can use any micro USB cable to charge itself since they will always use a five-volt circuit. Typically, a phone will use anywhere from 0.5 to 2 amp to charge. Find a charger with these specifications, and you’re golden.
If you are still feeling unsure, all you need to do is check the output rating on your official charger socket and find another charger that has the exact same rating. You will be safe.
The problem comes with phones that have plugs that don’t match the micro USB standard. For that you will have to take your phone to the store and test it out on a charger before you buy it.
When You Should Be Using Your Official Charger
If your phone has a warranty that specifically states that you may not use anything other than the official charger (and this typically happens because they use a very particular voltage to charge the device), then you should never use a generic one on it. You’ll rarely find phones that charge with anything other than the five-volt specification and an amperage above 2.1. But if you do, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Have any interesting stories on what you’ve done when your phone charger stopped working? Tell us all about it in a comment!