There was a time I would have railed against a gadget maker for daring to ship a phone without a charger.
That time was yesterday. Then, Apple was the poster boy for the idea — Apple with its goody-two-shoes rhetoric about saving the environment while continuing to produce an array of proprietary cables and wireless chargers, one of which requires you to buy a new power brick anyhow.
Now, Samsung won’t ship a charger with its new Galaxy S21 phones either. But Samsung doesn’t have the same problems.
It’s been all-in on USB-C and the Qi wireless standard for years, and you can use any such cable and any charger from any reputable manufacturer to top up your Samsung phone. Heck, those same universal cables and chargers work with laptops and tablets, too: you can use a MacBook or iPad charger to juice up a new Samsung phone, as long as it’s recent enough to use the universal port.
Even if you do want a new charger, you might not buy it from Samsung these days; while it’s nice that it dropped the price of its standalone USB-C charger from $35 to $20 to mark this occasion, companies like Anker and HyperJuice / Sanho produce tiny yet potent gallium nitride (GaN) chargers you can toss into any bag, not to mention playing card-deck sized ones with enough power and ports to charge a laptop, phone, and tablet simultaneously.
I bought a couple of those, and I’m good on chargers for the foreseeable future. For now, most any power brick that comes with a gadget is just a piece of waste, something I’ll need to recycle or attempt to pawn off on a friend.
It wasn’t always this way. I remember being grateful for the Samsung chargers that came bundled with my Galaxy S6 and S7 because they were the best on the market — remember these tapered right-angle wall warts that stuck out so ridiculously far?
They also happened to be powerful adaptive fast chargers that worked perfectly for lots of devices, whether they needed fast charging or not. Motorola’s TurboPower charger was also pretty good as I recall, but it only came with the company’s most expensive phones, and the early USB-C versions had a fixed (not detachable) cable.
There are still some arguments why smartphone companies should keep bundling power bricks with their new devices, like how there will always be some people who’ve never owned a phone before and won’t have a charger. Many will also point out that these companies are doing it for selfish reasons — still charging you the same amount or more for a phone while giving you less value in the box. (It’s fun to rag on these companies’ duplicity, too.) But like my colleague Dieter said succinctly last June, I don’t care: let’s get rid of 300,000 tons of e-waste and help the world’s remaining brand-new USB-C smartphone buyers get their chargers elsewhere.
With Samsung, Xiaomi, and Apple all ditching the charger, it’s effectively over regardless of how you feel. By market share, they’re the number 1, 3, and 4 brands, respectively, accounting for nearly half of all smartphone shipments in the world, and in the United States, it’s been a Samsung and Apple duopoly for years. But more importantly, the smartphone world has long gone where Apple and Samsung lead. The bundled phone power brick is dead.