Phone Chargers

January 29, 2007

I know I can’t be the only one who’s experienced this problem. Why do so many cell phones have unexplainably finicky chargers? I have had this problem with every cell phone I’ve ever owned with the exception of my RAZR, which I should point out I owned very briefly.

The problem basically is this. I plug the charger into the wall outlet, I plug the other end into the phone and it. Won’t. Charge. I become frustrated and turn the plug upside-down in the wall outlet. I try re-seating the phone-end in the phone. Several times. Then I try other outlets. Then I reboot the phone. Then I want to smash the phone and I wonder why mobile phone makers curse us with these needlessly proprietary* and unreliable chargers.

Then – mysteriously – it works again. I am relieved and I charge the phone. The problem sometimes persists for days, other times that’s it; I won’t experience a problem again for weeks.

I am completely unable to think of another electronic device that has this kind of problem with battery charging.

* Again, the exception was my RAZR, which had a standard USB connector. It could be that if I had kept this phone for a longer period of time it too would have experienced charging problems, but I can’t help but wonder if the non-proprietary connector means a more reliable charge. I guess I’ll never know because I got rid of the RAZR due to reception problems. If it’s not one thing it’s another.


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  1. There are a number of problems that can cause the symptoms you are describing. The odds of getting multiple faulty power supplies are very low, so you need to look at the ways you’re using and storing the phone and supply.

    1. Most often, these problems are caused by corroded or bent contacts on the phone and/or charger connector. Bent contacts can be caused by slight misalignment of the connector with the phone before plugging it in. Pushing the connector in at slight angle and then forcing with some pressure will wear or bend the surfaces over time. These are relatively delicate connection devices and should never be forced. If they don’t “click in” with a little pressure – stop and try again. The same is true when removing the connector. Likewise, if you throw the charger into a back pack or case along with laptops and heavy hard items, make sure the connector is protected and not being pushed or scrapped by these items. Look at the charger male connector and phone female connector for bent contacts or discolored areas – they should look symmetrically aligned in all directions.
    2. Leaving the charger in hot or moist environments, including cars can cause corrosion on the contacts. Dirt or oils from hands, pockets, packs, food, coffee, etc. can a thin film on the contacts and increase contact resistance. Take a small cotton swab and clean both sets of contacts (charger and phone) with rubbing alcohol. You may have to fold over a small piece of clean paper and saturate with alcohol to clean the phone contacts. Don’t saturate the swab or connector so the alcohol runs into the phone.
    3. Constantly twisting or bending the charger cord will work harden and break the small wires in the cable causing intermittent problems. Jamming charges into drawers, glove compartments, packs especially with other items or rolling up the cord with sharp bends can kink, break or internally cut wires over time. Inspect the cable for creases of small bulges. When you are having charging problems, slowly move the cord around by straightening and slightly twisting six inch sections at a time. If it intermittently starts and stops charging, you know it’s a broken wire and not the phone. They break most often where the cable enters the charger body or connector. Replace the charger.
    4. Dropping or sudden shocks can loosen internal connections in the charger and cause the problems you have been experiencing.
    5. Less likely, but not good for the charger is to leave it continuously plugged in when not charging.

    Overall, chargers and phones are designed to commercial standards which are the lowest level of reliability and durability (as compared to automotive/off highway, industrial and military spec) and need to used and treated with some delicacy. I’m not implying that you have abused your charger, but people often do not realize the actions that can cause these problems. The Razor may have a slightly better connector design or you just didn’t have it long enough for problems to appear. I and my family have three different LG phones for over two years with no charging problems.

    As far as other electronic devices not having the same problems, treat iPod cords and earbud headphones the same way many people treat chargers and the same problems will occur. Wall chargers for portable devices with bodies that plug directly in the wall have, in genral, bigger problems with wires breaking due to lack of good strain relief between the relatively large charger body and small cord.

  2. I haven’t subjected my phone chargers to anything but the most reasonable use. If they’re too sensitive to stand up to the kind of use I’m talking about, then they’re defective. And I’ve had two iPods, and considering my kids and my ex, I’ve ridden shotgun on several others. Not one of them have ever had a charging problem.

    The problem is not with me or how I handle the chargers. The problem is the chargers.

  3. I gotta say, I’m with Scott, here. If my charger needs 3 paragraphs of instructions on how to use it and protect it, it’s not well-enough made. It’s just making this cheaply and settling for poor design. But that’s certainly not your fault, Bill!

  4. In fact it’s precisely because I’ve had continual problems with the little buggers that I baby them so much. And they still don’t always work!

  5. I’m just trying to provide the technical reasons why these chargers may fail or demonstrate the problems you described. I also know a number of people including my daughter that have had problems with iPods; hard drives and especially the batteries dying prematurely. My internal LCD display on my LG phone cracked with no signs of physical damage to the outside. Like it or not, this is how most of consumer electronics is designed and manufactured. It’s not as durable as you may think and most is not designed for sustained cold temperatures (32 deg or lower) or higher temperatures above 120 deg. as well other environments other than your home, office or pocket. 140 deg is often exceeded in cargo containers on ships as the units are transported from Asia or in your car on a hot day. If they designed the charger to automotive or industrial specs it would cost three times more. You also couldn’t afford a unit designed to military spec reliability, but it would last and function longer than the old Ma Bell rotary phones. I’m not defending the design, but that is the current standard and reality. I only mentioned a few of the most common causes of the problems you described. Your phone (and charger) have a one year warranty with Verizon, if it’s broke; exchange it for a new one. Your charger fits a number of LG phones including mine, so they are making these by the millions. Even if the field failure rate of their chargers is 1% (very high by industry standards), your chance of getting another bad one is very small. New ones are also fairly inexpensive on eBay.

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