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

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

Kinds of Chargers

In this guide, we’ll focus on three types of chargers: notebook chargers, micro USB chargers (these are used with phones, tablet computers, and cameras), and Apple Lightning Connectors.  While some devices have chargers using a slightly different head or charging cable, these are the most common.

Laptop chargers are rather specific to the device they come with.  However, there can be some generic chargers that boast the capability to be interchanged between notebooks.  This always requires changing of this charger”head” and may not be the optimal charging amperage or voltage for your device.

Micro USBs are theoretically designed to be interchangeable, and are standard in many 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 whether the charger is safe to use (depending on its recorded amps and voltage).

Apple Lightning Connectors are standard on all new Apple devices, such as iPads and iPods. For older devices using a 30-pin charge interface, a connector can be used to control the Lightning Connector.

For a charger to be used on a different device, it’s essential that the plug  of the charger (the”head”) fit snugly to the charging port of the device.  Micro USBs are the same across the board so far as charging heads, whilst notebook chargers are usually specific to both make and model.  However, the plug fitting securely is only one part of this equation.

How Voltage and Amperage Matter

Determined by the power brick of the charger you will find a label with the charger’s voltage (V) and amperage (A).  For laptop chargers, this charging brick is often halfway down the charger and typically looks exactly like it sounds — a brick. 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’re trying to charge, the voltage and amperage required will be found on the battery that came with the device or on the manufacturer’s website.

Voltage is how much power the charger will draw in the device, or how much is being”pushed” into the device by the charger.  A phone will usually pull up to approximately 5V, though a notebook can pull up to 25V.  A charger must equal the voltage required by the device.  This is important: drawing too high a voltage could short out the device and potentially even begin a fire, while too low a voltage will fail to charge the battery.

Amperage is how fast power is”pulled” to the device, or how much electricity is used by the device.  The quantity of volts will never change, but the quantity of amps that the system pulls may change based on how hard the unit is working.  The number that you find on the battery that came with your device are the maximum amount of amps that can be pulled by the device.  If a unit is paired with a charger which can’t support the amp necessity, it may burn out the power supply and kill the apparatus.

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

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

Some devices might have their voltage listed using a plus/minus on it like that: 5v +- 5%.  If this is the case, you can use a charger rated at 4.75 to 5.25v because that score is telling you is that the device can take 5v minus 5% of 5v = 4.75 volts  OR  5v and 5 percent of 5v = 5.25 volts. 

An interesting thing to note is all chargers provide a higher voltage than the batteries that they charge.  That’s pretty much how they work.  There needs to be a voltage differential to generate the necessary current flow in the proper direction to charge the battery.  If you look at your car, it’s 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 that they often don’t support the power needs of the device, or are not built to keep a steady flow safely.  This can result in damage to the device but can also pose a safety/fire hazard. Overall, it’s better to stick with the charger designed for the device you are 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 come with your smart phone, notebook, camera, tabletcomputer, or other apparatus.  Be certain to follow exactly what we said and you should be ready to go!