What is micro-USB charging and how does it work?

We’re all pretty familiar with micro-USB ports. They’re often found at the bottom of our smartphones and tablets for charging up the battery. They’re also found on a myriad of other devices and hardware in the market. But, many people don’t actually know what micro-USB charging actually does, particularly when it comes to fast charging. 

Follow along below as we show you a high-level overview of what micro-USB is and how it works. We break it down into layman’s terms so anyone can understand it.

What is micro-USB?

To fully grasp what exactly a micro-USB is, you’ve got to first understand the name “USB.” USB stands for a Universal Serial Bus, and you may very well be more familiar with USB-A ports, which are the USB ports that come standard on many laptops and computers. A micro-USB is a miniature USB, and most likely (if you have an Android phone at least),you have one at the end of your smartphone or tablet charging cord. This is the piece that plugs into the micro-USB port on your smartphone or tablet.

Now, simply saying referring to a “micro-USB” is kind of a general term, as there are currently three different kinds of micro-USBs: micro-A, micro-B, and Type-C. Each of these have slight differences, like shape, inner workings, and the speed that each can perform at. Out of the three, Type-C is probably the most different, and is the direction most hardware manufacturers are heading in.

How does micro-USB work?

 

 

Micro-USBs, although most widely used for smartphone charging, are not simply limited to smartphones. With just about any current device that requires charging (like cameras and GPS devices for starters), you’ll find that they utilize micro-USBs for charging as well.

When plugged into a source of power, whether that be a wall outlet or your computer (and usually you’ll have an adapter that plugs into a wall outlet and has a USB-A port for the micro-USB cord to plug into), power is transferred through the micro-USB cord to charge your device. In the case of computers, this also connects your device to a desktop or laptop, giving you the ability to perform some different actions for your device straight from your desktop — in addition to charging, that can include viewing photos, files and more.

Fast charging and micro-USB

Charging your devices to full battery is no small feat. Especially with more advanced devices that have larger batteries, this can take a pretty long time, which you don’t have if you’ve got to be out the door in five minutes because you forgot to charge your phone overnight. As such, many different quick charging technologies have risen up, with one of the most popular options being from Qualcomm. Thanks to Qualcomm’s technology (and other manufacturers), phones with a micro-USB port that are equipped with a Quick Charge-enabled SoC (System on a Chip, some just refer to it as a processor) can be charged up to full in a short amount of time, or at least give you the juice you need to get on the road.

If you’ve purchased a new, current phone over the past couple of years, chances are you were notified of quick charging when you first plugged it in with your unique charger. It’s a genius idea, but just make sure you’re using a legitimate, certified quick-charge charger (the one that came with your phone is your best bet!), because lower quality quick-charge chargers can actually be damaging to your phone. Your best bet, at least as far as Qualcomm’s Quick Charge goes, is to find Qualcomm-certified chargers. Chargers straight from your phone’s manufacturer should work, too.

Qualcomm actually has different versions of its Quick Charge technology, offering different ranges of fast charging technology. First, you have Quick Charge, Quick Charge 2.0, Quick Charge 3.0, and most recently, Quick Charge 4.

 

Quick Charge 4 isn’t currently available, as it’s built on Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835 processor, which no current smartphone is equipped with, at least at the time of this writing; however, Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S8 is slated to have the Snapdragon 835 processor, and hopefully, have that Quick Charge 4 technology available, which allows for 5 hours of battery life on just a five minute charge; however, we don’t know if the Galaxy S8 will yet have a micro-USB port or a Type-C port. Either way, that quick charging technology will still be there.

So where do USBs come into all of this? Because of the way that Quick Charge was created, it should work with just about any independent cord, which means just about any USB type, including micro and Type-C, but with small, but varied speed results. Whatever cord you choose, it will send the necessary power to your phone to have it charged in no time.

Closing

As you can see, micro-USB is a very interesting technology. Not only is it used for charging up your devices, but it’s also used for the transferring of data. By plugging in the micro-USB end of the cable into your phone and the USB-A side in your laptop, you’ll be able to transfer all sorts of data, whether that be photos, video, apps and regular everyday files.

We hope we helped you understand a little bit more about micro-USB and how we interact with it on a day-to-day basis on our devices. It really is an interesting technology, despite slowly being replaced by the much more advanced USB Type-C technology (similar in terms of size, but better in almost every way).


About the Author: Brad Ward

Brad is a tech enthusiast, writing and tinkering with all things technology since 2011. He currently bounces between the LG G3 and his beloved Moto X! His interests include reading, entrepreneurship, the gym, and of course, queso.