An example of a converter adapter and a matching USB cable that attach to each other by magnetism
Charging your smart phone or other electronic devices through a USB cable can be a pain, particularly if that device has a micro USB port and you are old and have deteriorating vision like me. You need to insert the micro USB plug correctly into the receptacle because, unlike the more recent type-C plug, it has a correct side and a wrong side.
Also these charging ports tend to get broken over time because you do this plugging and unplugging over and over again, possibly hundreds of times. Once they are broken, you will no longer have data access to the devices. You might still be able to recharge the devices if they happen to support wireless charging by Qi, but if that is not the case, then you will not able to charge the devices either, which will render them unusable. I have an old Samsung Galaxy S5 smart phone, and its micro USB port is somewhat broken, in that the micro USB plug needs to be inserted at a very specific angle for charging to occur.
Good news! — There is a category of products that can prevent these kinds of tragedies. See the photo above for reference. It is a combination of “converter adapters” that you insert into the charging/data ports of your devices, and matching USB cables. The converter adapters and the dedicated cables attach to each other by magnetism. The ports can be either one of micro USB, type-C, and Lightning, and the converter adapters are “unifying” in the sense the other ends are the same. Once you insert those converter adapters into your devices, the same charging cables can be shared among them.
Such products typically allow you to connect the converter adapter and the cable without you worrying about which side needs to be up. That may not be anything new to type-C users, but to micro USB users like myself, it is quite liberating.
Sikai’s warning on connector compatibility
PZOZ’s warning on connector compatibility
So I decided to look into this category of products. The problem is that there is no standard, be it de facto or de jure. There are many products in this category and most of the time they are not compatible with one another. Even the same company seems to have already gone over some iterations of product development and generally newer versions are not compatible with older ones. See the images on the right to get a sense of the different kinds of connectors available.
In choosing the right charging cables, I set up the following criteria:
- Must support micro USB and type-C and optionally Lightning — I do not currently own a device with a Lightning port, but, hey, you never know. Actually I do not own one with a type-C port either, but someone who visits my place often does.
- Must support both charging and data transmission — I often access my devices from my PC to work on them, so I need data transmission capabilities.
- Ideally provide adapters that you can use with your existing USB-to-micro USB cables — Some products requires the use of their dedicated cables and they tend to be expensive. I am not inclined to commit to a product series that I do not know very much about. Another reason for this is that those dedicated cables tend to be long (as long as, or longer than 1m or 3’3″), which are unwieldy when you just want to recharge the devices with a portable battery on the go. I have been calling and will continue to call these adapters “converter adapters” in this article.
- Ideally provide rapid charging even if that means you need to get a dedicated cable for it.
- Contacts on the plug and the receptacle need to be recessed. — If they are exposed, they are likely to cause a short circuit.
After some hours of agonizing research, I have found the following three candidates:
Their latest iterations look quite similar, at least in the photos they provide. First, I do not know for sure if they are compatible. Even if they are, I have no idea if any of them is the original developer of these products, or if the original developer is elsewhere and all three of them are just copycats. Caution: they do provide different kinds of connectors but here I am talking about one specific kind. It is actually the one shown at the top of the two connector comparison images above.
Sikai seems to be a good candidate except that it does not offer converter adapters for use with “normal” USB cables. They also provide interesting products such as phone docks and Qi/USB-dual-charging adapter, both of which use the same type of magnetic connector. I find the latter particularly interesting. Sikai products in this category seem to be carried by many AliExpress stores.
PZOZ does seem to fit the bill as well. It lines up converter adapters. They seem to have only 5A-capable dedicated cables. Their 3A dedicated cables seem to be incompatible so proper caution is due there — the contacts look different.
A group of products from SUNPHG (I don’t know how you read that) seems to carry similar products. It also provides converter adapters, which look exactly like those from PZOZ and except they are missing logos, and are cheaper than the latter; they are likely knockoffs.
The only gripe I have is this. As to their dedicated cables that support up to 5A, they say this:
Fast Charging: (3 in 1)
For i-product tips, both sides of the cable supports Max 5A fast charging & data sync.
For USB C Android device. Both sides support charging & sync, led light will turn on when power on.
For Micro-USB connector, one side supports fast charging and the other side supports charging and data sync. Simply flipping the side to fit your need.
The product page for their 3A dedicated cables does not list such warning. The seemingly equivalent product from PZOZ does not carry such a warning, but it does not mean the issue is not there.
The devices I own now all have micro USB ports, so that is a bummer. But then again, these devices are not capable of charging by a 5A current, so at this moment, this does not pose a problem to me. The frequent guest to this house has a Softbank Xperia XZ, which supports Quick Charge 3.0, but even for that, a 3A cable should suffice.
I can guess all day, but ultimately I can know the compatibility or effectiveness of these products only after I actually give them a try. I have placed orders for products from all of these three companies, so we will see. Since they are all coming from either mainland China or Hong Kong, it will take more than a month for them to arrive here.
Below I am going to list a few “honorable metions.”
PZOZ’s warning on compatibility
GARAS’s offerings include a variant where… well, take a look at the pic on the side and you’ll get the idea. This is great because you can “roll” the connector (to use a term from flight) by any degree and it will still attach. It is great it supports data transmission too, not just charging.
But there are a few potential problems: i) because of the round connector, the diameter is likely to be bigger than the thickness of your smart phone, and it might lift it up on the edge if it is placed on a flat surface; and ii) because the contacts are fully exposed on the phone side, it could easily lead to a short circuit.
Possibly for these reasons, it seems they are phasing out those products. The flip side is that they are good bargains now if you do not mind the obvious shortcomings above. The fact they have started selling similar to the products that I have talked about in this article (or perhaps exactly the same with them) seems to prove it.
Wsken’s products (the X1 series, I think) almost meet all the requirements, except that they do not provide converter adapters. These are not compatible with the type I described above, because the former seem to have four contacts and the latter, five.
I have read the following articles too, but they were not really useful.