USB-C PD and other exciting acronyms.
The iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and iPhone X are the most powerful iPhones ever made, but there's a problem with the charger in the box: it's the same old standard USB charger that's been shipping with iPhones for years, and in 2017 it is slow. There are faster charging options, and the newest iPhones support one called USB-C Power Delivery. While the iPhone 8 and X still have Lightning ports instead of USB-C, they have built-in support for the faster charging standard and it's really quite effective.
USB-C PD is the same standard as is used to charge the latest MacBook Pro, so you know a lot of power can be pumped through that port. We set out to determine the cheapest way to quickly charge your fancy new iPhone so you can get charged up and on with your life. USB-C has added advantages over the older rectangular USB-A — it's smaller and reversible, so there's never any question about which way to plug it in!
Of course, you'll need a cable, and it's going to have to have USB-C on one end and Lightning on the other. We tested a selection of cables and adapters from Apple and other manufacturers to determine the fastest speed.
Right off the bat: say no to adapters. Plugging an existing Lightning to USB-A cable into a USB-C adapter and that into a USB-C charger yielded half the charge rate. Hooking a USB-C to Lightning adapter to a USB-C-to-USB-C cable charged even slower and after several minutes it was getting too warm for comfort. Adapters can be handy in a pinch, but don't count on them to be charging speed demons.
When it comes to USB-C-to-Lightning cables, the selection right now is a little sparse. Apple offers a cable in your choice of 1 meter for $25 or 2 meters for $35. Those, clearly, are not cheap cables.
Cheaper and functional options include 1 meter from Syntech for $8.99, 2 meters by Yontex for $7.99, and a slick 1-meter braided cable my Metrans for $8.99. There are other options on Amazon, but we opted not to test anything with less than 4 stars — if it's not good enough for us, then we're not going to recommend it to you!
Apple USB-C-to-Lightning cable
As the saying goes, though, you get what you pay for, and while each of these third-party cables will charge an iPhone from a USB-C charger, none of them come close to the charging speed offered by Apple's cables. We tested on an iPhone 8 Plus, discharged to 25% battery level, connecting it with each cable to the overpowered 87W Apple USB-C charger that comes with the 15-inch MacBook Pro (go big or go home, right?).
Apple's USB-C-to-Lightning cable yielded a charge rate of 0.161Wh/minute, which would charge the iPhone 8 Plus's 10.218Wh battery from empty in just over an hour. The 6.96Wh iPhone 8 will charge in roughly 45 minutes at maximum speed.
Metrans USB-C-to-Lightning cable
The next best cable was the Metrans option, which charged up at 0.098Wh/minute, for a total charge time around 105 minutes on our iPhone 8 Plus (or 75 minutes on an iPhone 8). Considering that the Metrans cable costs one third the price of the equivalent 1m Apple cable, getting 2/3 the charging speed wasn't terrible.
Apple's cables also have a history of not being the most durable options (how many Lightning cables have you seen with exposed wires?), and with its chunkier housing and braided fabric wrapping the Metrans cable feels like it might hold up better over time. And if it doesn't, it was a third of the cost ($8.99)!
Beyond these two options, the other cables we tested charged at even slower rates. The Syntech cable charged our iPhone at just 0.082Wh/minute, while the Yontex option charged at 0.051Wh/minute. This is still noticeably better than the 0.037Wh/minute we clocked from the in-box USB iPhone charger, and slower or on-par with what to expect from a standard higher-power USB-A charger from a third-party.
If you're buying a USB-C-to-Lightning cable, the fastest option is from Apple, but the cheaper-and-still-fast choice is Metrans.
Now that we've determined the fastest charging cable, we need to find which USB-C charger is going to give us the best charge rate. Testing the cables was done with the 87W MacBook charger, which while it offers all of the pooowweeeerrrrrrr it doesn't make sense on a few fronts. It's more power than the iPhone can take, it's enormous and heavy, and it costs $79. It's more charger than we need here, and since Apple doesn't yet offer their own mobile USB-C charger, we'll have to explore different options.
We tested five top-rated USB-C chargers from Amazon, each paired with the fastest $25 Apple-brand Lightning cable. Our other recommended cable, the $9 Metrans cable, clocked about 2/3 the charge speed.
iClever 30W USB-C PD charger
Of all the chargers we tested, iClever's 30W option was the smallest and the cheapest at $15.99. It also delivered a charge rate of 0.153Wh/minute, good for a 70-minute charge time on the iPhone 8 Plus or 45 minutes for an iPhone 8. That's not far off from the top charge rate we saw from the giant MacBook charger, so right around 0.16Wh/minute looks like the maximum charge rate for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.
Anker 30W USB-C PD charger
Anker's offering checks all the same boxes as the iClever charger. It's small (but not as small), it's not hideously expensive at $25.99, and it charges quickly at the same iPhone-max 0.15Wh/minute rate for a fully charged iPhone 8 in 45 minutes or 70 minutes for an iPhone 8 Plus. It offers a nice matte black finish and easy flip-out AC prongs, plus you're getting a known quantity in a name like Anker.
Aukey Amp Duo 29W USB-C PD charger
Versatility is the name of the game for Aukey's 29W charger. The Duo name comes from an included plug-in splitter, turning the single USB-C port into a pair of opposite-facing old-school USB-A ports for snappy charging at up to 2.4 amps per port.
But we're interested in the USB-C port, which here charged our iPhone 8 Plus at the maximum of 0.15wh/minute, good for charging an iPhone 8 Plus from empty in 70 minutes, or just 45 minutes for the smaller iPhone 8. The $22.99 price tag does cost more than our cheapest option, but it's just as small, comes from a trusted company, and includes a handy and compact adapter for charging all your USB devices.
Inateck 45W USB-C PD charger
The previous chargers all clocked in around 30W of power, which is more than enough for a phone, but what if you wanted something that will also charge your USB-C-equipped laptop? That's where Inateck's 45W charger steps in at a reasonable $28.99 on Amazon. It's the largest charger we tested, and it unfortunately has a snap-on AC prong instead of the flip-out variety.
Sadly, despite offering the highest power for your laptop, it was also the slowest of the USB-C chargers we tested at just 0.096Wh/minute — that's 105 minutes for an iPhone 8 Plus or 75 minutes for an iPhone 8.
Aukey 36W USB-C PD car charger
If charging up on the road is your bag, then the Aukey USB-C PD car charger should find a permanent spot in your automobile's 12V DC power port. It easily reaches the top charging speed of the iPhone 8, spitting out a judicious 0.15Wh/minute — just the same as you'll get from the top-performing AC wall chargers. It'll charge up your iPhone 8 in just 45 minutes, or an iPhone 8 Plus in 70 minutes. It won't take much of a drive to put a lot of charge back in your iPhone! Retails for $17.
Let us know in the comments below!
Updated December 2017: These are still the most cost-effective ways to add fast charging to your new iPhone 8 or X!