The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G arrived in India several months after making its international debut earlier last year. It checks all the boxes for a high-end smartphone, complete with a top-of-the-line processor, industry-leading high-refresh-rate display, impeccable cameras, and more. Its predecessor, the Galaxy S20 FE 4G had all but one of those things. It was powered by an objectively inferior Exynos 990 SoC, much to the disappointment of fans in India. However, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE still loses out to smartphones well below its weight class in one key area – fast charging. For reasons best known only to Samsung, the Galaxy S20 FE 5G’s fast charging capabilities max out at 25W. To make matters worse, the out-of-the-box charger is rated for 15W, meaning that you have to go out of the way to purchase a 25W brick.
Sub Rs 20,000 smartphones offer faster charging speeds than the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G
Realme, in particular, has spearheaded the ‘higher charging speeds for a lower price’ movement. For example, the Realme Narzo 20 Pro costs a paltry Rs 14,999 but offers supports 65W wired charging. Similarly, the Realme 8 Pro (Rs 19,999) can do 50W. Its main competitors, the Redmi Note 10 Pro cuts that down to 33W, but that’s still higher than what the Galaxy S20 FE 5G has to offer. Our tests determined that the Realme Narzo 20 Pro’s battery can be topped up in 35 minutes, while the Realme 8 Pro takes about 45 minutes for the task.
With the stock charger, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G takes about 90 minutes to go from zero to a hundred. Using a 25W charger cuts that number down to 70 minutes, which is marginally better, but doesn’t come anywhere near the competition. So, we can’t help but wonder, just why has Samsung chosen to distance itself from the fast charging rate. The answer, it turns out, is not so simple.
Slower charging speeds are better for battery longevity
With wired charging speeds soaring as high as 120W, the prospect of being able to charge your phone completely in as little as fifteen minutes is no longer a pipe dream. However, the unusually high wattages take a toll on the battery’s health in the long run. Basic laws of physics will tell you that there is a direct correlation between the amount of heat generated and wattage. Excessive heat causes the Li-ion battery components to wear out faster. Things might look fine and dandy for the first few months, but there will be a noticeable dip in battery health over an extended time. Smartphone veterans will tell you that anything over 5W is bad for the battery, but that advice is a tad outdated (and borderline asinine) given that modern-day smartphone batteries can take a lot more wear.
Smartphones that support triple-digit charging speeds have to employ a laundry list of security measures and protections to ensure that the battery doesn’t accidentally go ‘Brrrrr’ while charging. Both the phone’s charging IC and charger need to work in tandem to ensure that the right amount of current is flowing through the system. But what happens when the charger is compromised? Tencent’s Xuanwu labs found out that malicious actors could use a specially-designed charger to make your smartphone burst in flames via an exploit called BadPower. You can read more about BadPower and how it works here. This isn’t something an average Joe will have to worry about, though. However, all it takes is one bad component in the charger or smartphone to start an unsolicited fireworks display on your desk.
Here’s why Samsung could have stayed away from the high-speed charging fad
All the evils of fast charging aside, Samsung’s reason to stay away from it could be a lot simpler. A few years ago, many Samsung Galaxy Note 7 units caught fire due to defective batteries. It cost Samsung dearly, both in terms of revenue and reputation. The last thing Samsung wants is another battery-related debacle. This is quite evident if we are to look at the last two generations of Samsung flagships. Between the Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy S21 series, no Samsung smartphone has supported over 45W fast charging, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Will the Galaxy S22 series finally breach the 50W barrier? Only time will tell.