Now that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models have been in the wild for a few days, users are beginning to test, benchmark, and otherwise pick apart their new iDevices.
One of the most useful new features is related to the larger batteries that are included in the iPhones, thanks to their bigger screens and bodies. The iPhone 6 Plus includes a 2915 mAh battery, almost twice as much as the iPhone 5s' 1560 mAh unit, and considerably larger than the 1810 mAh battery in the iPhone 6.
Previous iPhones only charge at 5 watts, the maximum amount supplied by the smaller iPhone USB charger. The iPad has always included a larger 10- or 12-watt charger for its bigger battery. However, when the older iPhones were plugged into this higher-wattage charger, they would still only charge at 5 watts.
Now, with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, plugging into a higher-wattage charger allows the phone's larger battery to charge considerably faster. Unfortunately, both iPhone 6 models include the older, slower-charging 5-watt USB charger, requiring new iPhone owners to purchase an alternate charger (or use one from an iPad) to maximize their charging speed.
Apple sells a 12-watt USB power adapter for $19 (USD) at all Apple Retail Stores and the Apple Online Store, but there are other good alternatives. Also, for those worried about hurting their iPhone or violating the warranty, Apple lists every iPhone model as "compatible" with the higher-wattage iPad charger on its website.
Mac models sold in the past few years are capable of supporting higher-wattage charging through their USB ports. To check if your Mac is capable of charging at higher speeds, plug in an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus (or any iPad), and do the following:
- Open the Apple Menu and select About This Mac
- Select More Info...
- Select System Report...
- Click USB in the left sidebar
In the USB Device Tree list, you should see an iPhone listed. If the computer is capable of higher-wattage charging, it will have "1600" listed under the "Extra Operating Current" item (which will say "500" if you plug in an older iPhone). If you plug an iPad or iPhone 6 into an older Mac that can't support higher-wattage charging, "Extra Operating Current" will not display.
Aside from Apple's 12-watt USB charger and newer Mac models, there are also third-party chargers that can support the higher charging speeds. Look for chargers that specifically support 2.1 amp charging. For example, The Wirecutter recommends the Scosche reVOLT 12W + 12W car charger, which can charge two devices simultaneously at 12 watts, plus a number of different USB hubs that are capable of charging at the higher 12-watt speed.
Whether you get a third-party charger or Apple's own 12-watt adapter, I highly recommend that you pick one up if you've got a new iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. Informal testing has shown that a nearly-depleted iPhone 6 Plus can fully charge from the faster charger in little more than two hours, a huge improvement from the standard charger.
If only Apple had included the higher-wattage charger in the box.
How important is the speed when you're charging your iPhone? Let us know in the comments below.
Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.