How To Tell Which Apple Charger To Use With Your iPhone/iPad/iPod/Watch

How To Tell Which Apple Charger To Use With Your iPhone/iPad/iPod/Watch


If you happen to own more than one of Apple’s mobile iOS devices –the iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch– or you live in a household where there are multiple generations of of the products present, then at one point or another you’ve undoubtedly asked yourself: which Apple charger can I use? Should I throw out that little one from a few years ago, or can I keep it as a spare?

Apple Charger tangle of white
A typical rat’s nest of new and old Apple chargers (Credit: Brad Moon).
After a few years, we all inevitably end up with a drawer that’s a tangled mess of white cables and white USB chargers stamped with the Apple logo. They’re different sizes, but most accept a USB cable. If look closely at the fine print, some are labelled as 5W, some as 10W and you may have a 12W one. How do you tell which is safe to use with any given Apple product?

Start With Cables
This part is easy, but I may as well mention it. Apple mobile devices began switching to the current Lightning connector cable in 2012. Earlier devices used a much larger 30-pin cable. Both cable styles can be used with an Apple USB charger (it’s the device end that’s different), but you need to make sure you have the appropriate cable. Oh, and the Apple Watch requires an entirely new magnetic charging cable.

Which Apple Charger?
Now for the fun part. Apple has produced a handful of different USB chargers over the years (I’m not getting into the European market versions here). They vary in size and by wattage, however all but the earliest models have a standard, full-sized USB port. Making things more interesting, in an apparent cost-cutting move, with some products Apple sometimes merely slipped the USB cable in the box instead of including a recharger –the latest iPod Touch, for example. What confuses everyone is which Apple charger can be safely used with which product, and what happens if you use the “wrong” one.

The good news is that it’s a lot less complicated than you might think.

This little 5W Apple charger is standard issue with iPhones and the Apple Watch.
Apple 5W USB Charger
Apple 5W USB Charger (Credit: Apple)
Next along is the 10W Apple Charger, introduced with the iPad.
Apple's 10W USB Adapter
Apple 10W USB Adapter (Credit: Apple).
With the Retina iPads and their bigger batteries, Apple released the 12W USB Charger.
Apple's 12W USB adapter
Apple 12W USB adapter (Credit: Apple).
The company put out this chart to help owners of iPads and iPhones, but what’s missing from it is the iPod Touch and Apple Watch. If you check the detailed compatibility lists for each of these adapters (here’s a link to the 12W Apple adapter), you’ll find each of these USB chargers can also be safely used with all Apple Watch models and all iPod Touch models.
Apple's USB chargers

Apple chargers, common US types (Credit: Apple).

The Bottom Line
So long as you stick with Apple rechargers, there’s not much you can do to hurt yourself, or your Apple gear.
If you use a USB charger with a higher wattage than the the one your device originally shipped with –for example, using one of the 12W iPad chargers with an iPhone– you may find the battery charges slightly faster, but Apple says it’s safe to do so. If you step down too far –using the little 5W adapter to recharge an iPad Air– it simply won’t work. In between –using one of the older 10W iPad chargers on an iPad Air– it will take a bit longer for the iPad’s battery to top up.
The one to watch out for is the square white Apple charger supplied with original and early model iPods. On the surface, it looks like a USB charger, but it actually has a FireWire port instead. If you try to connect it to a newer Apple device (assuming you can find a FireWire cable), it won’t work, but nothing will blow up. You’ll just see this error message:
Apple charger device not supported error
Plugging in to an unsupported USB charger (Credit: Apple).

Oh, and if you have a cheap knock-off Apple charger kicking around, some of these have been linked to fires. At one point Apple was offering owners a $10 bounty to turn these things in and exchange them for an official version. If it’s from a reputable manufacturer, you should be okay; if not, use with caution and think about maybe replacing it.

No comments:

Post a Comment