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Can You Use Any Charger With Any Cell Phone, Laptop, Camera, or Tablet? 

Every mobile phone, laptop, and tablet seem to come with their own charger.  If you’re like me, you’ve probably compiled quite a few chargers over the years.  So the question becomes: is it safe to use a charger with your phone, notebook, camera, or tablet computer that isn’t the original manufacturer’s charger which came with the device?

Kinds of Chargers

In this guide, we will concentrate on three types of chargers: notebook chargers, micro USB chargers (these are used with phones, tablets, and cameras), and Apple Lightning Connectors.  While some devices have chargers with a slightly different head or charging cable, these are the most frequent.

Laptop chargers are rather unique to the device they come with.  However, there can be some generic chargers that boast the ability to be interchanged between laptops.  This always requires changing of the charger”head” and might not be the best charging amperage or voltage for your device.

Micro USBs are theoretically designed to be interchangeable, and are standard in most smartphones, Android devices, and tablets.  Micro USB chargers typically have the same voltage, but may draw different amps.  I will explain this further later and how to know if the charger is safe to use (based on its recorded amps and voltage).

For older devices using a 30-pin charge interface, a connector can be used to charge with the Lightning Connector.

In order for a charger for use on a different device, it’s important that the plug  of the charger (the”head”) fit securely into the charging port of the unit.  Micro USBs are the same across the board so far as charging heads, while notebook chargers are often specific to both make and model.  However, the plug fitting securely is just one part of the equation.

How Voltage and Amperage Matter

Somewhere on the power brick of the charger you’ll get a label with the charger’s voltage (V) and amperage (A).  For other types of chargers, like a smartphone charger, this information is usually located at the bottom of the charger, in which it would meet the wall.  For the device you are trying to control, the voltage and amperage required will be found on the battery that came with the device or on the company’s website.

Voltage is how much power the charger will draw into the apparatus, or just how much is being”pushed” into the apparatus by the charger.  A phone will usually pull up to around 5V, though a laptop can pull up to 25V.  A charger must equal the voltage needed by the device.  This is important: drawing too high of a voltage could short out the device and possibly even start a fire, while too low a voltage will fail to charge the battery.

Amperage is how quickly power is”pulled” into the apparatus, or how much electricity is used by the device.  The quantity of volts won’t ever change, but the amount of amps that the system pulls may change based on how hard the unit is working.  The number that you locate on the battery that came with your device are the maximum amount of amps which can be pulled from the device.  In order to exchange chargers, the amp number on the charger must equal or exceed the amp number recorded on the device’s battery. If a unit is paired with a charger that cannot support the amp requirement, it may burn out the power supply and kill the device.

So if you have a modern USB device (smart phone, tabletcomputer, or camera) you can plug into a high-amperage USB port and enjoy quicker charging (as long as the voltage is equal).  *Website Note: if you have an older device, it may not work with USB ports that use the newest Battery Charging Specification.

If The Micro USB  Charger’s Voltage Isn’t 5v…

Some devices might have their voltage recorded using a plus/minus on it like this: 5v +- 5%.  If this is true, you can use a charger rated at 4.75 to 5.25v because that rating is telling you is that the device can take 5v minus 5% of 5v = 4.75 volts  OR  5v plus 5 percent of 5v = 5.25 volts.  This means anything between 4.75 t0 5.25v is safe to use (as long as the amperage of the charger is equal to or greater than the device’s listed amperage).

An interesting thing to note is all chargers supply a higher voltage than the batteries they charge.  That is pretty much how they operate.  There has to be a voltage differential to generate the necessary current flow in the correct direction to charge the battery.  If you look at your car, it has a 12V battery, but typical alternators provide 13.8 to 14.4V charging voltage to the battery.

The problem with knockoffs, especially cheap knockoffs, is they frequently don’t support the energy requirements of the apparatus, or aren’t built to maintain a steady flow safely.  This can cause damage to the device but can also pose a safety/fire hazard. Overall, it’s best to stay with the charger designed for the device you’re using.

Now You Understand How to Safely & Effectively Swap Chargers

I hope this article was able to help you.  Now you know how to safely and efficiently use a charger that did not include your smart phone, notebook, camera, tablet, or other device.  Be certain to follow exactly what we said and you should be ready to go!