Can You Charge Headphones With a Phone Charger?


There aren’t many as inconvenient situations as when your headphones run out of juice while their charger is not at hand. Whatever you were doing till that moment while listening to the music will just become less enjoyable. It’s even worse if you were in the middle of a call. 

The question is, should you just plug your headphones in your phone charger if you have it by your side? Can you do such a thing?

The answer is yes if it is a matching USB connector. You may experience slower charging, but that can be good. 

To understand why you can use a phone charger on your headphones, you should understand how a USB charger works. 

THERE ARE NO WRONG CHARGERS 

You most likely are aware that when it comes to phone chargers there are several fast charging technologies, which are proprietary protocols of different phone makers. Qualcomm has their Quick Charge, Samsung has Adaptive Fast Charging, Huawei has SuperCharge, Oppo, and OnePlus have VOOC Flash Charge that is branded as Dash, Warp or Dart Charge depending on the device; and many more. 

But what you maybe do not know is that all of these standards and devices that support them are backward compatible with the USB Power Delivery (USB PD) standard. This is something that makes USB charging truly universal, and all USB chargers compatible with any USB charging device. 

All devices that can be charged or powered over USB protocol have power circuitry that controls charging and power delivery from batteries, this includes all wireless headphones, not just mobile phones. At the same time power bricks and dongles that supply power from the wall, such as your phone charger, have a similar controller which controls power delivery from the wall. 

When you connect your headphones to your phone charger, these two controllers communicate with each other. Depending on each other USB PD revision support they either exchange which power source profiles or which source power rules they support. Then the controller inside of your phone charger will select the fastest charging speed bot your headphones and charger support. 

In case that this communication doesn’t happen, or for some other reason your charger cannot determine what charging speeds your headphones support, it will automatically deliver the basic USB charging speed, 5V at 0.5 amperes. This voltage and current are supported by all devices that support charging through a USB cable. 

CAN YOU CHARGE HEADPHONES WITH A WRONG CABLE? 

The answer to this question depends on what you mean by a wrong cable. Wireless headphones, depending on the supported USB standard, either have a USB micro B or a USB Type C charging port. These two ports differ physically, micro B is asymmetrical and a cable can go in only one way, while type C is symmetrical and cable is reversible. 

Because of this physical difference, you can’t use type C cable in the micro B socket, and vice versa. In other words, you can’t use the wrong cable, if a cable can be connected to your headphone it is the right one. 

In case that you try to use an Apple phone charger cable, the situation is essentially the same. Because of the physical differences between the cable’s connection and the headphone’s socket, you can’t use the wrong cable. It’s physically impossible to connect the wrong cable to your headphones. 

On the other side of the power cable, you will most likely see a USB Type-A connector. Depending on the USB version supported by the cable there can be certain big differences that are completely irrelevant when it comes to using it for charging. Not understanding these differences often leads people to believe that you can’t use a USB v1/v2 cable with a USB v3.x charger. 

The difference that creates confusion is that USB 3.x cables and sockets have five additional connectors. The reality is that those are used for achieving higher data transfer speeds, and in no way are involved in charging your phone or your headphones. The parts of the socket and connectors that are used for charging are identical across all USB versions. 

The backward compatibility with the older versions of USB standard is backed in never versions. So as long as you can physically connect the cable with both your headphones and phone’s charger, it is the correct cable. 

CAN MY HEADPHONES EXPLODE DUE TO WRONG USB-C CABLE? 

When the USB type C connector started to become the de facto standard for smartphone charging there were a lot of reports about phones exploding because of faulty cables. Some people were actually curating public lists of cables that have proper USB 3.x certification, which was a guaranty that they will not cause your phone to explode. So, what is the cause? 

USB 3.x standards brought much higher speeds of charging, which are achieved with higher voltages, but more important higher currents going all the up to 5 amperes. Some manufacturers of cheap aftermarket cables started advertising their USB cables as USB 3.x compatible. While many such cables were OK for data transfer, they were not appropriate for higher charging speeds. 

Simply, the copper wires inside of them didn’t have sufficient cross-section to handle higher currents. In case that a person would use a fast charger on a phone that supports fast charging speeds, in combination with such aftermarket cheap cable, the cable would heat to dangerous levels. Metal parts of the connector and charging socket would conduct that heat inside the phone which would cause damage. 

In other words, the damage and sometimes explosion of phone batteries was happening because the cheap aftermarket cables were unable to handle currents as high as the charger and phones could. 

When you connect your headphones to a phone charger, controllers in both of them agree what is the maximum voltage and current both of them can use. You can be certain that your headphones can handle an equal or lower maximum current than your phone, and your charger will provide it with a safe level of current. 

But also that the charging cable you’ve got with your phone can handle higher currents than the charging dongle can supply. So, if you use the cable you’ve received with your phone, your headphones are safe. 

Additionally, if you use the power cable you received with your headphones with a power dongle from your phone, you can rest assured that the current will not exceed the cable’s rating. 

ADVANTAGES OF CHARGING HEADPHONES WITH PHONE CHARGER 

Many people are unaware that this mismatch of using a phone charger to charge your wireless headphones can have one of two advantages. In some cases, it can either cause your headset to charge quicker or prolong the life of its battery. 

Some manufacturers, as a cost-cutting measure, with their cheaper wireless headphones ship cheaper chargers that don’t support the maximum charging speed of the headphones. Because your phone charger and headphones, when connected together, will agree what is the highest speed they both support, your headphones may charge quicker on your phone charger. And this is a safe situation. 

In case that your headphones and phone charger can’t agree what is the maximum charging speed they both support, the charger will supply the minimum charging speed which is 5V at 0.5 amperes. All rechargeable batteries have a finite number of charging cycles they can go through. One of the reasons for the loss of capacity when charging is the heat that is generated during the charging process. 

The level of this heat is directly in correlation with the level of current provided by the charger. Higher the current means more heating, lower the current lower heating. When you charge your headphones at the appropriate current, their battery will last the expected number of charging. 

But if you charge it at a lower current, with each charging cycle it will lose less than expected capacity. This will actually lead to it being able to last a higher number of charging cycles than specified by the manufacturer. 

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