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iPhone 13 bigger batteries would be nice, but faster charging is a must

iPhone 12
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Do you know how fast an iPhone 12 charges? Marketing materials for Apple’s current phone promise a 50% charge in 30 minutes. However, that straightforward half-full in half-an-hour fact hides an embarrassing truth that Apple really needs to fix for the iPhone 13.

Rumors this past week have echoed existing claims that the iPhone 13 line will receive new higher-capacity batteries. This would be a good improvement to make for this year’s batch of iPhones, and the soft board battery technology sounds very clever. But with more milliamp-hours to fill, Apple's need for a faster charging standard becomes greater.

So let's go back to the opening question — how fast does an iPhone 12 charge? The iPhone 12 Pro I use as my daily driver phone features a 3,180 mAh battery, the same as the base iPhone 12. That's quite small compared to equivalent Android phones, which have batteries between 4,000 and 5,000 mAh in size. Even the larger iPhone 12 Pro Max with its 6.7-inch frame only offers a 3,687 mAh cell.

I tried charging my iPhone from 0% using Apple's official 20W charger. That’s the maximum wattage for powering up an iPhone 12, but since Apple no longer provides chargers with its phones, I had to buy it separately. 

It took 15 minutes to power up the phone to 28%, and 30 minutes to get it to 55%, which is slightly better than what Apple claims. That speed is all right, but it doesn’t come close to what some of the iPhone’s rivals can produce. 

If we look at the fastest charging phones around, the top device, the OnePlus 9 Pro, can get to 99% charge in the same time it takes the iPhone to fill up half its battery, using a 65W charger that's included in the box.

OnePlus 9 Pro review

The OnePlus 9 Pro, not any Apple phone, is the king of quick charging. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It actually takes 2 hours for the iPhone to charge to 99%. This isn't uncommon for phones to do, due to the design of their rechargeable batteries, but it seems absurd that it takes this long for one of the best phones on the market to power up fully.

If the rumors are correct and the iPhone 13's battery capacity is getting larger (up to 18% larger in the case of the iPhone 13 Pro Max), then charging times are only going to get longer as a result. There have been no solid rumors of faster charging for the new iPhone so far, and with about a month left until the usual iPhone launch window in September, there's not much time for any big new rumors to emerge, giving us hope that Apple will address a big shortcoming with its phones.

Why the iPhone 13 needs to charge faster

Apple's taken some good steps forward with charging in recent years. Up until the introduction of 15W charging on the iPhone X and iPhone 8 series, all iPhones charged at a sluggish 5W. That increased again to 18W with the iPhone 11 before landing with the current 20W system on the iPhone 12. The same goes for wireless charging, which went from a basic 5W to 15W should you use a MagSafe puck plugged into a 20W charger. But while that’s an improvement, it's still not that good compared to what else is available on the Android side of the fence.

iPhone 12 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

This isn't to say Apple can't do things differently from Samsung, OnePlus and others. The company’s proven time and again that it leads the pack without rushing to adopt the features of competitors, if it ever does at all. However, in this case, I think Apple needs to continue to up its game for what is otherwise a very basic feature for flagship phones.

You can find possible reasons why Apple isn't prioritizing charging in the same way. The biggest one to my mind is that many of us charge our phones for hours overnight, so the speed that the phone powers up makes no difference as long as you find it at 100% in the morning. But fast charging means that it's easy to power your phone up fully when you don't have the luxury of time. 

Having a fast charging speed is as essential as having a tough display or a water/dust resistance rating. If everything is going well, you'll never notice those features are there, but you want them around in an emergency. 

I'm well aware that Apple's still going to sell millions of units of the new iPhone 13 whether it charges at 20W, 30W or even 150W. But it can't truly innovate in other areas, such as with battery life, while its charging speed remains static.

  • More: See all the latest iPhone 13 rumors in one place
Richard Priday

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. He's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.