You can remember a time when it didn’t take all night to charge your phone. Back in those golden days of yore, your Android’s battery meter went from a pixel-wide strip of red to a fat green bar in a quarter of an hour. Nowadays, however, your poor phone takes ages to recharge, and you’re constantly scrambling from one charge session to the next. Or maybe your phone has always been a snail-paced charger, constantly left in the dust by your friends’ devices.
Whatever your experience, it’s time to finally put your smartphone under a diagnostic microscope and get to the root of its slow-charging issue. Odds are your phone is suffering from one of these ten ailments, and we’re going to show you how to fix it if possible.
We’re going to tackle these roughly in order of decreasing likelihood, so let’s start with the most common culprit…
Possibility 1: You have a bad cable
If your phone is charging slowly, checking the USB cable should always be your first step. It’s actually pretty understandable once you consider all the wear and tear your basic USB cable goes through in the course of everyday use. Many people keep using the same charger setup that came with their device for years, unaware that USB cables tend to get beat up pretty easily.
USB cables are dropped, bent, stepped on, left in cars during scorching and freezing conditions, and plugged in and out of devices on a daily basis. One thing to keep in mind is that USB cables are designed to be less robust than your device’s port. When push comes to shove, you’d rather have your cable break than your phone’s port because the cable is much easier (and cheaper) to replace. That’s why manufacturers deliberately construct USB cables to take the brunt wear-and-tear.
Most of the time, it's the USB cable's fault
Ever have one of those cables that didn’t seem to “stick” in the phone anymore? It just frustratingly falls out for, like, no reason. Take a look at the underside of the USB male connector. You’ll see two thin little “teeth” that keep the USB firmly plugged into your device. Those are made to bend pretty easily in the event of any trauma – like your phone getting yanked quickly off the charger – and once they’re bent, they’re toast. Also, look inside the front end of the connector. You’ll find a line of tiny little prongs. Those are made of relatively soft metal, because if one gets slightly out of line, you don’t want it damaging your phone’s port.
Most of the time, it's the USB cable's fault
In short, lots can go wrong with a USB cable and they are manufactured to be wimps about it. Grab a new USB cable, and you should be good to go. This and this alone probably constitutes 90% of slow-charging problems. If you swap cables and keep experiencing problems, though, then feel free to move along to…
Possibility 2: You have a weak power source
If you’re using your PC to charge your phone, then your phone is going to charge very slowly. Even with USB 3.0, the standard energy output is only .9A (.5mA for USB 2.0). And that’s under ideal circumstances; any damage to your USB cable or ports can knock that meager flow of energy even lower. Likewise, if you’re using wireless charging, you’re going to get a pretty glacial charge as well. No one’s arguing that wireless charging isn’t cool – it certainly is – but we’re kind of butting our heads against physics and safety at this point. Long story short, it’s just plain faster to plug your phone in.
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So yeah, there’s your solution. A lot of device owners use inefficient methods because they just think “charging is charging,” but currently the fastest way to get your battery back to full is to use a dedicated wall charger and physically plug your device into it. If you’re doing this and you still have sluggish charging, the problem might lie in your home’s wiring (if it’s a particularly old building), or it could be that…
Possibility 3: You have a bad adapter
Yeah, that little blocky thing that plugs into the wall. Maybe a power surge left it a little wonky or it got kicked around during a move. Once again, this device is made to take on the brunt of any trauma rather than your phone, so they tend to not be the most stalwart little devices. Grab a new one and get back to charging full-speed.
Possibility 4: Your phone may be outmoded
It can be a touchy subject, but it might be time to update your device. Modern devices have processors that support more rapid charging, and some devices have turbocharging capabilities. If your phone feels like it’s charging slower compared to people who have newer devices, this might be your issue.
However, even if you’ve got a solid device that you know used to charge faster (not only compared to your peers), the sad reality is that things fall apart. The center doesn’t hold. Hardware decays. The falcon cannot hear the falconer, and phones are not immune to the inexorable pull of entropy dragging everything to the ultimate heat death of the universe.
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Also, you could have a bad battery.
Possibility 5: You have a bad battery
There have been many instances of manufacturers issuing recalls for whole batches of batteries. Search online to see if your phone’s model came with a bad battery, and see if you can acquire a replacement from your provider. Also, like your phone in general, batteries just get old and bad.
If you happen to own a device such as the LG G4, Galaxy S5 or Galaxy Note 4, good news! If your battery has gone bad, you can purchase a new one from Amazon and pop it into your phone right away when it’s delivered. If you own a device with a non-removable battery such as the Galaxy S6, Note 5, or Moto X Pure Edition, though, you’ll have to send the device in to the manufacturer to get it replaced.
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Possibility 6: The Enemy is You
Take a look in the mirror, because it’s time for some introspection. How addicted to Facebook are you? Do you have a Candy Crush Saga problem? Do you habitually play with your phone while it’s charging?
A surprising number of smartphone users aren’t aware that the biggest drain on their phone’s battery is the screen. Keeping that gorgeous display lit up with high-resolution Facebook drama will use up battery even as your phone soaks it up. If you combine this with one of the other problems above, you might find yourself in a situation where you are using battery power faster than your phone can take it in.
If you need your phone to charge quickly, give it a rest while it’s on the charger.
Possibility 7: Background apps are sapping your battery
Although your screen is the number one battery sucker, you might have some sneaky apps running in the background that are constantly draining power, causing your phone to charge slower. In addition to charging sluggishly, does your phone also feel like it runs through its battery life faster than it used to? If so, this may be your issue. Apps in Android often boot themselves up or run in the background after only being opened for a moment. Although this used to be a bigger problem than it currently is–Android is getting better and better at efficiently managing resources–having a rogue app or two can give your phone’s performance a nasty hit.
The easiest solution here is to grab a good task manager and check it frequently to see what’s running when it shouldn’t be. When you locate a misbehaving app, try uninstalling it and see if your battery life and charge speed is improved over the next few days.
Possibility 8: Your USB port is obstructed
Your phone spends all day rattling around in your pocket or purse with all manner of lint, dust, and particles. It’s pretty common for a USB port to get a little bit of that trash lodged inside of it. If you plugged in your charger without noticing, it may have packed the obstruction in even deeper, which might be preventing your charger from making a good connection.
Using a bright light and perhaps magnification, look around inside your phone’s USB port for anything that shouldn’t be in there. If you see something that obviously doesn’t belong, grab a thin, pointed object and carefully try to remove it. Remember playing that board game Operation as a kid? We’re in that kind of territory here. Be very careful not to damage any of the port’s components, or you could end up with a bigger problem than you currently have.
I recommend using a plastic (not wooden) toothpick if you can find one. Alternatively, giving your port a good scrub with a dry, brand new toothbrush is a very effective and safe way to make sure it’s free of any blockage.
Possibility 9: Your USB port is damaged
Oh boy. This is what we were hoping it wasn’t. If you’ve made it this far, and your phone still isn’t charging correctly, then you may have broken or bent a pin inside your phone’s USB port. At this point, you should really consider taking your phone to a professional for repair. If you got insurance from your cellular provider, then you may be able to get this issue repaired for cheap or free. Take your phone by a shop and get a quote on a repair job.
Possibility 10: Your USB port is corroded
Yes, you might also have some corrosion in there from sweat or humidity. Corrosion is particularly vicious little problem, because it creates a film over the connective hardware that prevents a proper charge, but even worse, if you don’t get rid of it, it can keep eating away at your device, causing larger and larger issues.
Taking your phone's life into your own hands is risky business
Once again, you should really consider professional help at this point. Going forward, you risk voiding your phone’s warranty and doing serious damage to the device. However, if you decide to take your phone’s life into your own hands, and you are comfortable and familiar with the process of disassembling and reassembling mobile devices, then you should know that many corrosion problems can be dealt with using just white vinegar and rubbing alcohol.
Taking your phone's life into your own hands is risky business
Disassemble your device to expose the area of corrosion. The intricacies of this process outstrip the scope of this article and will vary from device to device, so once again, unless you’ve done this before and the phrase “disassemble your device” doesn’t make your stomach jerk viscerally, take your phone to a professional. For those moving forward, most corrosion can be removed by using a cotton swab dabbed in distilled white vinegar. Rub down all the corrosion you see with a light touch, and be careful not to get vinegar into the uncorroded areas. I probably don’t have to say this, but getting vinegar into your phone is bad.
Once you’ve coated the corrosion with vinegar, wait 5-8 minutes, then use the tip of a paper towel to remove the vinegar. Repeat this process until there is no sign of corrosion. This accomplished, dab the area with rubbing alcohol on the tip of a cotton swab and let the device air-dry for half an hour. Reassemble your phone, and you should be good to go!
Whew, I think that just about covers it. If you’re getting a slow charge, I hope you found the solution you needed on this list. And I hope it didn’t have to come to you sitting with all your phone’s parts spread around you like a mobile autopsy.
Did we miss anything? Have you experienced any problems with crappy charging that don’t appear on this list? Got a better solution to one of the problems listed above? Let us know in the comments!