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No charger in the box: These are your cheap iPhone 12 charging alternatives

You can stick with your existing charging cables and adapters, but spending as little as $14 can get you a faster charge.

The new iPhone 12 models are here -- four of them! -- and from ceramic screen protection to fancy new cameras, they're chock-full of new features. But as was expected, Apple is stripping away accessories it had long included: The EarPod headphones and AC power adapter are both gone. Apple is pitching this as an environmental move, as it had already telegraphed when it pulled the chargers from the Apple Watch models announced last month.


The problem in a nutshell: The USB-C cable that the iPhone 12 models ship with (similar to the one on the left) won't plug in to your USB-A chargers (the 5-watt model that shipped with previous iPhones, right).

John Falcone/CNET

The only electronics you get in the box besides the iPhone 12 itself is a USB-C to Lightning cable. (Yes, iPhone 12 models still have Lightning ports, but the other side of the cable now has USB-C.) USB-C is basically better all-around than squared off USB-A connections: it's smaller, it can't be plugged in upside-down, it gives faster charging speeds and compatibility with recent Apple (and Windows) PCs. The only problem? The vast majority of folks still have drawers full of chargers with those old-fashioned rectangular USB-A ports. 

If that describes your situation, I have good news and bad news. The good news: Your existing cables and chargers will still work, but not at the fastest speeds possible. The bad news: If you want to make the leap into the USB-C era, you're still going to have to spend a bit of money. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be more than $10 or $15.

Free option: Your existing Lightning cable or wireless charger

You pay: $0

John Falcone/CNET

To be clear: The iPhone 12 models should work with any Lightning cable and charger you have around the house, even if They're good old-fashioned USB-A models. And it's compatible with any existing Qi wireless charger on the market. So anything you've been using to charge an iPhone 5 through iPhone 11 model should get the job done. But without USB-C or MagSafe, it won't be charging at maximum speed. The iPhone 12 specs pages note that the phones should juice up "to 50% charge in 30 minutes" when used with a 20-watt or higher USB-C adapter. Which brings us to...


Alongside the new iPhones, Apple quietly debuted a new $19 20-watt USB-C power adapter. It looks perfectly serviceable, but why give even more money to the richest company in the world? We have a full list of solid chargers we can recommend, and you can add one to your Amazon cart for less than $10. I would seek out a model that has both a USB-C and USB-A port, and packs a bit more wattage -- that will let you charge pretty much any gadget smaller than a laptop. This Aukey model, for instance, has enough juice to power up your iPhone or Nintendo Switch alongside a pair of wireless headphones. Similar dual-port models from RAV Power are also available, and also recommended. They seem to fluctuate between $9 and $16 at Amazon.


One of the marquee features of Apple's new iPhone 12 line is MagSafe. But unlike the old MacBook charger connector, this is an enhanced version of contactless charging that lets the new iPhones securely snap to compatible chargers, as well as offering new flexibility with cases. The problem is that all those new MagSafe accessories (from Apple and, soon, third-party manufacturers) are pricey, starting at $39 and heading northward from there.

Instead, you can stick with existing contactless chargers that use the Qi standard. They'll be limited to half of the 15-watt charging capacity of MagSafe, but if you're just leaving your phone by the nightstand or desk, that won't matter. Your current wireless charger will work just fine, but if you're in the market for a new one, this Anker model has served me well for months: The standing models like this avoid the "missing the target" problem of the flat wireless chargers. It's available for under $20 and its maximum charging power is just 5 watts but -- ironically -- this product doesn't include a power adapter in the box either. That said -- OK, Apple, I'm agreeing with you -- I did already have plenty of older adapters on hand. I've also invested in some USB-equipped power strips over the years, which obviates the need for wall warts altogether. (Yes, many of these now have USB-C built-in, too.)

Anker also offers a 7.5-watt version for closer to $30. If you'd like a cheap wireless charger with a power adapter included, this lay-flat RAV Power model can be had at Amazon for under $18.

John Falcone/CNET

Yes, at Apple's scale, including one of these tiny widgets in every box would be the carbon equivalent of a zillion cars traveling 50 miles a day (or something like that). But it also would've been the smallest of olive branches, acknowledging that a lot of people don't have USB-C chargers. Personally, I would stick with the new charger recommended above, which will barely cost you a couple of bucks more (if that). But if you'd like to retrofit pretty much any USB-A charger (or laptop port) to supply power via a USB-C cable, this will get the job done -- though it won't charge as fast as a native USB-C charger.

There are plenty of other no-name dongles on Amazon, but I can personally recommend the model linked below and shown above, having used it to charge for months with no issues. It's averaging 4.5 stars out of 5 from over 8,000 positive user reviews, and you get a two-pack for $11.

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