One of the most frustrating aspects of getting a new device, like an upgraded Apple Watch, and then having to buy a new charger to go with it. This has become a significant problem since Apple decided not to ship chargers with some of its devices, like the iPhone. It would be much easier just to continue using your old charger. But are all Apple Watch chargers the same, and would it work?
Not all Apple Watch chargers are the same, but they are all inter-compatible. Some support fast charging while others don’t, and you also get specialized chargers such as desk docks. However, they all support the same standard, so you can charge any Apple Watch on any official Apple Watch charger.
It’s no wonder that people find it confusing at times. There are many contrasting views, and upon inspection, it might appear that the chargers are vastly different and incompatible. Newer Apple Watch models also have more powerful batteries, so it seems unlikely that an old charger could charge them. Let’s look at the Apple Watch chargers and compare their differences.
Components Of Apple Watch Chargers
All Apple Watch chargers have two essential parts: the power adapter and the charging cable. Older versions of the Apple Watch came with both parts, but from the Series 6, Apple stopped shipping the power adapter in the box in most countries and regions.
We must consider both aspects to understand the differences between Apple Watch chargers.
The Power Adapter
The Apple Watch’s power adapter is a charging brick that comes with various watt ratings. Higher ratings allow for fast charging, while the lower ratings (like the ones that shipped with the Apple Watch up to the Series 5) don’t. Fast charging support only started with the Series 7, including the Series 7, 8, and Ultra, but Apple stopped shipping power adapters from the Series 6.
You can also bypass the power adapter by connecting the charging cable to a computer or other device with a compatible USB port, but fast charging compatibility will depend on the port’s watt rating.
The Charging Cable
The charging cable is the part that you see most often. There are two main types and one slight variation.
- The Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Cable has a charging puck on one end, which cannot be detached. This is the older type of charger that comes with the Series 6 or older, and it cannot fast charge your Apple Watch, even if it is connected to a fast-charging power adapter. This type of charging cable has a standard USB adapter on the other end.
- The Apple Watch Magnetic Fast Charging Cable is the newer one you get with modern Apple Watch models, including the Series 7, 8, and Ultra, and it can fast charge supported Apple Watch models if it’s connected to a compatible power adapter. It looks slightly different in two ways:
- It has a USB-C connector rather than the older USB plug.
- The charging puck itself looks somewhat different, with an aluminum lining and a slightly thicker cable.
- The Apple Watch SE ships with a cable that’s somewhere between the two. It has a USB-C connector, like the Fast Charging Cable, but it isn’t compatible with fast charging, so the puck doesn’t have the aluminum lining.
How Apple Watch Chargers Are All The Same
When the very first Apple Watch (the retro-named Series 0) was announced in September 2014, it used a simple magnetic wireless charger that somewhat resembles a hockey puck (and is often referred to as the “charging puck” because of this fact).
It’s a simple concept that’s easy to use. One end of the charging cable has a USB connector (standard USB-A in older models or USB-C in newer ones) that can connect to a charging brick or a USB port on a PC, while the other end has the charging puck.
The puck itself is slightly concave to match the convex back of the Apple Watch, and it contains magnets that ensure the Watch is perfectly aligned with the charger when you place it on top.
This charging standard is still in use nearly a decade later, and it’s the same charger you will get when you buy a brand new Apple Watch Ultra or Series 8.
The Apple Watch Charging Standard
Apart from the essentially identical chargers, they all work in precisely the same way as well. It’s a proprietary Apple wireless charging technology that’s not officially compatible with other popular wireless technologies like Qi. Even though Apple switched to Qi support in its other devices, like the iPhone, the Apple Watch still uses this proprietary standard.
Interestingly, studies have found that the Apple Watch is, in fact, compatible with Qi wireless charging. However, it’s not possible to charge the Apple Watch on a Qi charger; it simply will not charge. It seems that Qi support was added so that the Watch can charge other devices rather than letting Qi chargers charge the Watch, though this has never been used and has no real applications.
The Implications Of The Universal Charging Standard
So, now we’ve seen that all Apple Watch chargers use an identical form factor and the same magnetic wireless charging standard. But what does that mean?
It means that you can charge any Apple Watch on any Apple Watch charger. If you have an older Apple Watch charger lying around, even one dating from the original Watch Series 0 or 1, you should be able to use it to charge the latest Apple Watch Series 8 or Ultra if everything is still working as it should.
The Exception: Fast Charging
Even though you can charge any Apple Watch on any Apple Watch magnetic charging puck, there is one vital factor to keep in mind if you have a Series 7, 8, or Ultra: fast charging.
All Apple Watch chargers can charge all Apple Watch models, but not necessarily efficiently. There are three crucial components for fast charging to work:
- You should have an Apple Watch that supports fast charging. This is currently limited to the Series 7, 8, and Ultra. Not even the SE currently supports fast charging.
- You need the Apple Watch Magnetic Fast Charging Cable. That’s the one with the USB-C port and aluminum lining.
- You also need a power adapter that supports fast charging. This means it should have a USB-C port and at least 5W of power output, which includes Apple’s 18W, 20W, 29W, 30W, 61W, 87W, and 96W USB-C power adapters.
Fast charging allows your Apple Watch Series 7 or 8 to charge from 0 to 80% in approximately 45 minutes, and the Apple Watch Ultra (with its bigger battery) in about an hour.
If you charge one of these devices on a wireless charging puck made for an older Apple Watch model, it will charge significantly slower (especially in the case of the Apple Watch Ultra).
We should also note that your mileage with older chargers will vary. Not only could the charger be faulty and not work as it should, but newer devices have stronger batteries with higher power requirements.
For example, fast charging will only happen if the conditions are right. Since wireless charging generates heat (and fast charging even more so), fast charging will not work if there’s too much heat around.
You should also limit your Watch’s usage while you’re charging it, especially on older chargers, since the added power use could cause your device to get very warm, which is harmful for the battery. It’s best not to use your Apple Watch at all, perhaps even place it in Airplane Mode, when using a charger that’s not rated for your Apple Watch model (though the same is of with any charger).
Different Apple Watch Chargers
As we’ve seen, the Apple Watch charger is more or less universal, with their fast-charging capabilities and USB connectors being the main differentiating factors. But there are also some third-party chargers you can use.
All in all, you have the following choices when you want to charge an Apple Watch:
- The Apple Watch Magnetic Charging cable is the standard charging puck with a USB-A connector that shipped with all Apple Watch models up to the Series 6. It cannot fast charge, but it can charge any Apple Watch.
- The Apple Watch Magnetic Fast Charger cable is the same as the standard magnetic charging cable, but it has a USB-C connector instead of the traditional USB-A, and it is capable of fast charging (if you connect it to a power adapter that’s either 18W, 29W, 30W, 61W, 87W, or 96W).
- The MagSafe Duo Charger is a convenient Apple original charger with two wireless charging pads. One is larger than the other and supports the Qi standard, making it perfect for charging your iPhone or AirPods charging case. The other is significantly smaller and supports the same charging standard as the Apple Watch. It can fold up into a small package that you can easily carry with you to charge your iPhone and Apple Watch when you’re out.
- The Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Dock is an Apple Watch charger that lies flat on your desk or nightstand, allowing you to charge your Apple Watch with its band open. You can place your Watch flat or on its side, allowing you to use it in Nightstand mode. It is not capable of fast charging and is only officially rated by Apple for models up to the Series 6. Importantly, it utilizes the older USB port for connection.
- There are various charging docks made by third-party vendors that also support the Apple Watch, and some support fast charging.
A notable example is the Belkin BoostCharge Pro, which has three MagSafe charging pads, one of which is dedicated to charging your Apple Watch.
These docks are convenient for charging your iPhone, AirPods, and Apple Watch simultaneously. They fit comfortably on your desk or nightstand so that you can access all your devices easily.
All Apple Watch models use similar chargers that have magnetic wireless charging pucks using proprietary Apple technology. You can charge any Apple Watch with a charger from any other Apple Watch. However, some support fast charging while others don’t, and different charger types, like a MagSafe Duo or a charging dock, may be more convenient than the puck in some scenarios.