Samsung's not one to jump on the bandwagon with everybody else. That may have been true of the company many years ago but in the recent past, it has been entirely focused on blazing its own trail. Samsung isn't getting sucked into needless wars to pad spec sheets or joining its Chinese rivals in a race to the bottom on pricing.
The Korean juggernaut is doing its own thing and doing it very well. Samsung has become the industry leader in foldable smartphones and will likely remain in that position for several years. It's pushing Android OEMs to level up and provide four years of Android OS upgrade support like it does. Lastly, its focus has now been on updating devices with meaningful instead of gimmicky features.
Chinese OEMs have taken a different approach. Their primary focus has been on big numbers and big marketing claims. They were quick to adopt camera sensors with very high megapixel figures for devices across the entire price spectrum. After all, the average customer would feel that a 108-megapixel camera is going to be better than a 48-megapixel camera.
Fast charging speeds have been another favorite for them. Everybody dreads being tethered to the phone charger. Sometimes, you need to go out in a rush when the battery is nearly dead, and being able to fill it to a decent percentage within minutes is a great feature to have. Companies like Xiaomi, Redmi, Oppo, OnePlus, and others have intensely focused on increasing maximum charging speeds to get the most brownie points.
Realme can now lay claim to that crown. It has unveiled the GT Neo 5 today and the device supports 240W fast charging. The company claims that the device's 4,600mAh battery can be charged to 100% in just nine and a half minutes. This is an outrageous speed even by Chinese standards when you consider that's nearly 100W faster than the 150W supported by some OnePlus phones and also faster than the 210W Redmi Note 12 Discovery Edition.
At 240W the GT Neo 5 can, in theory, charge at over 5x the speed of Samsung's latest Galaxy S23 Ultra which supports 45W charging. Realme's clearly got Samsung beat here but it's not like the Korean giant can't do the same, it simply doesn't feel the need to. Samsung took its sweet time in bringing 45W charging speeds to flagships and even the latest base Galaxy S23 model still remains at 25W. It's evident that Samsung doesn't want to participate in this rat race.
We tested Samsung's 25W vs 45W charging speeds last year and only found marginal improvements. It wasn't quite the leap as many had expected. You can get a decent charge level in the first 10 minutes or so, enough to tide you over when you're in a rush, but even on the Galaxy S23 Ultra you can expect it to take about an hour to charge fully from empty.
Samsung seems to have made a conscious decision to not jump on this bandwagon because it prioritizes battery health. I can't imagine what consistent charge cycles at 240W will do to the phone's battery but it's probably not going to be conducive to good health. Samsung's push for greater sustainability has seen the company incentivize customers to keep their devices for longer. With four years of Android upgrades for most devices and a battery that's certainly going to last as long, customers would be able to hold on to their device for a lot longer. That may not be true for all of these Chinese phones that just want high enough charging speeds that can double as a marketing strategy.
Perhaps in time, Samsung will feel that smartphone battery technology has advanced enough that such high speeds won't significantly degrade the health for at least three to four years. Only then might we see the company inch charging speeds on its devices up from 45W. I can support this approach, it's better to play it safe and prioritize longevity than to push for brownie points.
The only downside is that the perception doesn't side with Samsung. For the average customer, 240W charging will always seem “better” than 45W, even if that leads to faster battery degradation. Samsung should try to influence the narrative around this just so people can realize that faster isn't always necessarily better.