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Plug adaptor with USB port for charging - can I trust it?

Our next trip will take us back to Switzerland so I am buying some Type J plug adaptors. We travel with one iPhone 7 and one iPad and we each take our own charger for our device. I see Plug adaptors with built-in USB ports for charging devices, like this one on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MYBLO5E/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Can chargers like this be trusted for our expensive Apple devices? It says the output is 5 V which is appropriate, but are there other considerations? I am pretty sure Apple recommends using only their own charger and that is what I have always done.

Posted by
1213 posts

Of course Apples says to use only their charger. All companies say to only use their accessories for their products. The only reason is they want to sell you their over priced accessories.

Posted by
2487 posts

I have several like this from several brands and have never thought twice about it. Used for multiple iphones and ipads. I would use the one you linked with no worries. Apple probably says that for the same reason your shampoo says to wash, rise, and repeat (kidding, barely).

Posted by
17940 posts

A USB charger is a pretty generic device. I doubt that Apple makes their own chip for their chargers. They probably use one of a few essentially identical chips (if not just one) from Asia.

When we went to Seattle for a couple of day a few weeks ago, my partner left her iPhone charger in Denver and her phone was running out of charge. The charger for my ASUS transformer pad had a USB "A" port, so we just bought a cord with a Lightning plug on the other end and used my charger. No problem.

Funny thing, a cord with a USB micro male plug, like everyone uses on their non-Apple phones was $5 less than an essential identical one with an Apple Lightning plug on it. Royalties, I assume.

USB chargers are getting to be like AA batteries.

Posted by
25583 posts

The only concern is the output. They all crank out 5 volts DC from whatever you plug it into, but the iPhone needs much less current when charging than an iPad.

Any charger will work with any generation of iPhone (lightning connector for iPhone 5, SE and anything higher; traditional 30 pin connector for iPhone 4S and anything lower) just fine. Make sure that you either have enough oomph or patience when charging the iPad.

I randomly interchange - and have for years - USB chargers originally included with Samsung, Nest, Motorola and various Apple devices. I've never had a problem.

I kind of like the flat triangle shaped Apple adapters because they fit most easily in my man-bag. For the same reason I don't like the cube shaped lump provided with iPads.

If you travel with a laptop many have an always on USB port coloured blue which works just fine. You may have to turn on the feature in the settings.

Posted by
12139 posts

Thank you. Obviously I do not understand how generic these things have become.

The Type J plug adaptors for Switzerland seem so bulky, compared to "rest of Europe" Type C plugs, so I do not want to take 4-5 as we usually do ( there is always some attrition with those). The J adaptor with the USB ports is only marginally larger (3/4 inch longer in depth) than the simple ones without, so I guess we will take one of each for flexibility. ( And I will also take my iPad cubic charger just because).

And I will make sure I do not being the wrong iPad cable like I did last trip. I had to buy one with the lightning connector in the San Jose airport, an expensive mistake.

Posted by
17940 posts

The Type J plug adaptors for Switzerland seem so bulky, compared to
"rest of Europe" Type C plugs

Don't compare the Type J plug, or any other grounding plug (like Schuko, Types E and F) to the 2-pin, non-grounding Type C, Europlug. Not only is Type C non-grounding, it is limited by code to 2½ amps (575 watts at 230V). The Type C is not suitable for hairdryers!

Not only is the Swiss Type J a grounding plug, but it is the only continental European plug that safely accepts an American "polarized" (1 blade wider) plug.

So what are the devices you plan to use with an adapter? Anything which draws more than a USB voltage converter in Switzerland should probably use a Type J plug adapter.

BTW, most Type C plugs today will fit into a Swiss receptacle (socket). They just won't be grounded, but they will be polarized if you put the pin on the same side as the wider slot in the left hand hole (with the middle, grounding hole on top).

Posted by
17940 posts

The only concern is the output. They all crank out 5 volts DC from whatever you plug it into, but the iPhone
needs much less current when charging than an iPad.

More accurately, the iPad needs more current when charging than an iPhone. Phones charge at 1 amp; pads need 2 amps. It looks like this charger can put out 2.1 amps on one USB post if the other port isn't being used.

My camera uses rechargeable AA batteries. I have a battery charger with a USB A plug, and I recharge my batteries from my pad or netbook.

Posted by
5652 posts

Answer to your question comes down to design and quality control and I don't have the background and knowledge to answer that question. However, it appears to have been an asked question on the web. I did a search for "usb phone charger reliability and defects" and first three hits were:

https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2014/06/please-dont-buy-cheap-phone-chargers-and-cables/

In the news this morning, a woman in Sydney has died in an apparent
electrocution and a knock-off USB charger has been linked to her
death. A stall in Campsie faces fines of up to $87,500 and two years'
imprisonment for selling the chargers.

The young woman was found dead wearing headphones and holding her
laptop, with burns on her ears and chest that suggest an apparent
electrocution. According to NSW Fair Trading commissioner Rod Stowe,
the death has been linked to an unbranded phone USB charger sold by a
mobile phone accessories kiosk in Campsie in the south-west of the
city.

https://www.theverge.com/2015/11/16/9742360/oneplus-usb-type-c-cable-adapter

To use OnePlus's Type-C adapter as an example, Leung explains that the
product doesn't follow the standard's rules for delivering power. "By
using this cable, your phone, tablet, or laptop computer may attempt
to draw 3A [of power], writes Leung. "Which may be more than the
micro-b to A cable you attach to this adapter may be able to handle.
This may cause damage to whatever cable, hub, PC, or charger you plug
into this."

https://www.macworld.co.uk/news/apple/are-cheap-iphone-chargers-safe-unofficial-apple-power-chargers-safety-tips-3460975/

Non-official Apple chargers have been in the spotlight recently, after
research found that the overwhelming majority of counterfeit chargers
failed basic safety requirements.

In autumn 2016, tests on 400 counterfeit chargers commissioned by
Trading Standards found that only three were sufficiently insulated to
protect against electric shocks, a pass rate below one percent.

The chargers were bought from eight countries, including the US, China
and Australia.

Posted by
5906 posts

Lola, Apple sells products in Europe. Buy a charger in Switzerland if you want to stick with a genuine Apple product that you're confident will work there.

Posted by
12139 posts

OK, so maybe I was right to be a bit cautious? Are the stories Edgar posted just sensationalist?

We do have real Apple chargers and cables, as they are included with each device purchased. I am just wondering if we need to take them if there are USB ports for charging included within the Type J plug adaptors. Also in the travel nightlight I bought for my husband.

It seems these alternate charging devices are ubiquitous, and many use them routinely without ill effect. I can see my husband using one for his iPhone. But maybe I will err on the side of caution and stick with the charger that came with my iPad. It takes up minimal space.

The only things we will connect to power are the chargers for the iPhone, iPad, and my old style flip phone. No hairdryers or anything that draws more current than the iPad charger.

As for Apple stores in Europe, yes they are there. I highly recommend a visit to the one in Covent Garden ( London), a marvel of design.

Posted by
31271 posts

Lola,

The problem with USB Chargers (or other electronic products these days) is that it's often a bit of a gamble in deciding which one to buy. Consumers really have no idea whether they're getting a reliable, safe and properly designed product, or a piece of junk with inferior quality components. Many (most?) small electronic products these days are manufacturer in Asia as cheaply as possible, and quality control often seems to be less important than profit. While chargers from Apple, Belkin or similar companies are also built in Asia, I've found that they tend to be better quality and more reliable, and of course as a result they cost more.

You might also have a look at this product - https://www.amazon.com/Anker-Charger-PowerPort-Multi-Port-Samsung/dp/B00VH8ZW02/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1514356660&sr=8-2&keywords=multi+usb+charger . It should easily charge the devices you'll be travelling with and one nice feature is that it has a cord, which means it isn't as likely to disconnect from the outlet when used with a Plug Adaptor. Of course there are no guarantees with this one either, but judging by the number of five-star reviews, I suspect it is a reliable product.

I recently decided to buy a backup iPhone charger and bought a unit similar to this model - https://www.londondrugs.com/logiix-usb-power-cube-rapide---white---lgx11743/L8613879.html . It has both a high current and low current USB outlet so is capable of charging both iPhones and iPads (although I'm not sure if it's designed to charge both simultaneously). I don't own an iPad at this point, so it's not a concern. The charger appears to be very robust and excellent quality, so hopefully I won't have any problems. It was somewhat pricey but I tend to focus more on quality and function rather than price.

I always pack a few Plug Adaptors both in my carry-on and checked luggage. The two-pin Euro and Swiss Adaptors aren't large or heavy so not a problem to travel with.

Posted by
9635 posts

OK, so maybe I was right to be a bit cautious? Are the stories Edgar posted just sensationalist?

Yes...and no.

No one is telling you to get a no-name charger from a stall at a flea market. Stick to the ones that have lots of positive review on Amazon or are sold at major retailers.

Just make sure they are dual voltage (120-240v).

I've been using a multi-charger for years with no problems. A few different brands. All from Amazon. (I'd probably stay away from the Ebay $1 multi charger from China that includes free shipping. It's probably junk. )

Posted by
5652 posts

Even Apple branded products can have systematic defects.:
https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls/2016/apple-recalls-travel-adapter-kits-and-plugs

Apple Recalls Travel Adapter Kits and Plugs Due to Risk of Electric
Shock

Hazard: The two-prong wall plug adapters for Australia/New
Zealand/Argentina, Brazil, Continental Europe and Korea can break and
expose the metal portion of the adapter, posing an electric shock
risk.

Remedy: Replace

Recall date: February 18, 2016

Units: About 814,000 (In addition, about 81,000 were sold in Canada)

Posted by
2709 posts

I pay a lot for my electronics so I don't skimp on the chargers. I've read too many articles like this to bother with the generics. You often get what you pay for.

Posted by
17940 posts

So, I guess we can't trust anyone. What's really scary about the incidents that led to the Apple recall, is that the Apple Europlug adapter shown on the travel kit not only carries the CE mark, which would indicate that it had a complete safety analysis, but it also has a double insulated symbol, which should mean that in addition to the insulation provided by the plastic case, the internal wiring is also insulated to protect against a shock in case the plastic case breaks. And, the case is white, which means it lacks the UV protection provided by lampblack in black plastic, so the plastic can degrade with exposure to sunlight. (BTW, my CE Schuko plug adapters are also white.)

So, Lola, you might as well get a two pin, Type C, Europlug adapter and tape it to your Apple charger.

As for the defect reports linked by Edgar, I find them to be poorly written from a technical standpoint and therefore difficult to evaluate. The second article only talks about someone's cords not being adequate for future amperages, but that could be true for any cord. Who knows what amperage might be drawn by future devices.

As for the electrocution case, there is not a lot of information given. All we really know is that the charger did not meet "Australian safety standards". Presumably she was charging her laptop while listening to music on the earbuds! No mention as to how the fine wire in the USB cable carried enough power to electrocute her. Australia uses 240V.

Finally, the adapter/charger linked by Lola should not be used as an adapter with a polarized American plug. After looking at the enlarged view of the adapter, it appears that the wider slot, which with polarized power should be neutral, is on the right hand side, looking at the back. The left hand hole on a Swiss receptacle (with the grounding pin high) is neutral (note the N about the left hand pin on the last view). I doubt that the conductors crisscross inside the adapter. With this adapter, the device would actually "see" power that is not just not polarized, but always polarized in the wrong direction for safety.

Posted by
31271 posts

Nigel,

Yes, London Drugs. The name is somewhat misleading, somewhat like Canadian Tire. LD is a popular chain of stores in western Canada (mostly B.C. & Alberta) that sells a variety of items. In addition to prescription drugs and OTC med's, they sell vitamins, grocery items, small appliances, TV's, stereo components, computers, printers, cameras, lenses, photo finishing, CCTV, Drones, Cellphones, cosmetics, household items, etc. Some stores also offer computer repair service. (I've probably forgotten something, but you get the idea). Over the years, I've found that they tend to stock better quality merchandise and not cheap junk. If you want to have a look - https://www.londondrugs.com/ .

Posted by
12139 posts

Interesting comment by Lee on the polarity. I looked at the regular J adaptors I bought ( without the USB ports), made by the same (Chinese) company, and they are marked the other way: the N pin is on the same side as the wider plug slot (right side when holding the adaptor with center grounding pin up and pins facing away).

Although Apple chargers do not have polarized plugs, this disparity is troubling. Are Swiss outlets configured so that the center grounding pin is above the other two? That is the opposite of American electrical outlets, which have the hole for the grounding pin below the other two ( and the wide plug on the left side).

All the marks on the J adaptors ( both kinda I bought) would be upside down in that case.

I did not realize one needs a course in EE to figure out plug adaptors but appreciate the information. The one I originally asked about is going back!

Posted by
4863 posts

Since the Apple (and almost all other) wall-wart chargers have only two-prong US plugs, you don't need to give a lot of thought to the quality of the local ground.

If the OP dares, I want to make a simpler suggestion. I carry a (bulky) US Cube-Tap device. This allows me to put more than one charger into a single Euro outlet-adapter. Of course you have to make sure, in advance, that there is physical space for all those wall warts at the same time. Indeed, in older or more family-owned Euro properties, there aren't going to be a row of electric plugs above the work-desk (!) in your spacious room. Heck, I just came back from a Hilton property in Vero Beach FL where we had to kneel on the floor to plug things in at the baseboard. I should have asked for my Resort Fee to be refunded!

Warning: My solution requires that you either be smart, or only carry devices that REQUIRE a wall-wart. I did ruin one of my toothbrush chargers by plugging it into 220V using my advice in the paragraph above. (No, it didn't explode in my face.)

Posted by
31271 posts

Lola,

With a device like a USB phone charger, I wouldn't be too concerned about polarized plugs as a properly designed and good quality charger will function properly regardless of which pin is connected to the "hot" lead.

There are a lot of variations in design and quality of products like chargers, and most consumers never give this a second thought, but just assume that some agency (UL or whatever) has approved the devices for sale and that they're safe. The reality is that cheaper products may not be safe. Many people who buy cheap items off E-Bay or whatever never have any problems with them but problems are more likely with cheap products, and these can be serious. This is why I prefer to pay more for a good quality product, although even that doesn't guarantee that the product won't fail.

I'm sure you've seen this, but this is the configuration of Swiss outlets - https://www.worldstandards.eu/electricity/plugs-and-sockets/j/ . The centre (offset) pin is ground / earth. I've found that the usual two pin Euro plug adaptor will also work in Switzerland - https://www.amazon.com/Ckitze-Europe-Travel-Power-Adapter/dp/B001EB26MO .

For those who are so inclined (Lee, Nigel), these articles provide some good information on the differences between a cheap $2 charger and a better quality charger. This is quite technical but I thought I'd post it for those who might be interested.....

This article provides a good description on why it's not a good idea to use cheap chargers.....

This is described as being the schematic of an "iPhone Charger" and I'm including it to show why a polarized plug is not needed.....

Bottom line..... the safest solution would be to just pack along your genuine Apple iPhone and iPad Chargers. Take a basic power bar (NO surge protection or other features) and at least one plug adaptor. Alternately you could try a product like the multi-charger I linked in my first reply. It appears to be a reliable product and has numerous positive reviews.