The iPad and Charging

Table of Contents

There’s been a lot of talk on the old interwebs recently about the iPad and its charging situation. Let me try to sum it up as best as possible: The USB cable included with the iPad will not charge the iPad on all computers or USB hubs, powered or not. This has caused some confusion in the market, including a few douche canoes who say that it doesn’t charge via USB. Not true, so let me explain.

The iPad takes a lot of juice to charge itself. That’s why it comes with a 10-watt power adapter, similar to the one pictured above but without the fancy cord. The idea is that you charge your iPad like how you’d charge your iPhone in an outlet, but with this very specific charger.

Now that’s not to say that it won’t charge via USB. It will, on some newer iMacs and MacBooks, but it has to be directly connected to the USB port. That’s because there’s a chance that a USB hub – powered or not – won’t have enough juice to kick start the iPad. This has been addressed by Apple in several places. There’s the iPad support site, the iPad Manual (PDF link), and the iPad Important Product Information Guide (PDF Link). Let’s take a look at the notes from the Product Info Guide and see what it says.

Charging iPad To charge iPad, use only the Apple Dock Connector to USB Cable with an Apple 10W USB Power Adapter or a high-power USB port on another device that is compliant with the USB 2.0 standard, another Apple-branded product or accessory designed to work with iPad, or a third-party accessory certified to use Apple’s “Works with iPad” logo.

Alright, so that’s pretty clear, right? But just in case, the Support Site goes into a bit more detail.

iPad has an internal, rechargeable battery. To charge the battery, try the following:
  • Connect iPad to a power outlet using the included cable and the 10W USB power adapter.
  • Connect to a high-power USB 2.0 port using the included cable.
Note: Some USB 2.0 ports and accessories do not provide enough power to charge iPad. When this occurs the message “Not Charging” appears in the status bar next to the battery icon.

And then there’s more.

Charging Tips

The fastest way to charge your iPad is with the included 10W USB Power Adapter. iPad will also charge, although more slowly, when attached to a computer with a high-power USB port (many recent Mac computers) or with an iPhone Power Adapter. When attached to a computer via a standard USB port (most PCs or older Mac computers) iPad will charge, but only when it’s in sleep mode. Make sure your computer is on while charging iPad via USB. If iPad is connected to a computer that’s turned off or is in sleep or standby mode, the iPad battery will continue to drain.

This really shouldn’t be a shocking thing to anyone with some basic common sense. The iPhone and iPod can charge via USB, but they’re tiny devices compared to the iPad. The iPad has a mammoth battery that’s 5 times bigger than the iPhones, so it’s not surprising that USB charging isn’t ideal. But combine that with USB docks that vary with power ratings and low-end computers with poor quality USB outputs, and you’ve got a scenario where you can’t charge via USB. Scandal!

Fact is, this device should be looked at more like a standalone device, not just another accessory to dock to your computer. When you travel, bring the charger with you – no differently than you would with any other portable gizmo that’s not USB powered. And when you’re home, charge it via the outlet as well. Only dock it to the computer when you want to sync, not charge.

Besides, charging via USB is going to be slow at best anyways. Why not juice it up quickly?

Picture of Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

7 thoughts on “The iPad and Charging

  1. AG why act like this is the way things ought to be? My Apple iPad dock attaches via USB to my Macbook Pro and I can’t charge and sync at the same time – yes I have MBP Core 2 Duo from 3 years ago but no dice on charging while syncing. Because syncing takes hours I want it to charge and sync at the same time while I sleep – to much to ask Apple? Why doesn’t my $30 dock have an option to plug into an outlet for charging and USB for syncing at the same time? Weak sauce Apple. You could have done better. Guess I’ll have to wait for a powered USB hub that will solve the problem Apple created.

  2. Charging is definitely an issue for the iPad. It reminds me of the hassle I went through with the iPhone 3G and was forced to discover (the hard and expensive way) that half my iPod chargers/accessories weren’t compatible because they put out 12 volts instead of the USB standard of 5 volts.

    Granted, it’s not the end of the world, but imagine the chaos that would occur if someone started building 120 volt toaster ovens that required at least 30 amps to operate (most home receptacles are wired to 15 or 20 amp circuit breakers).

    If you view the iPad as an alternative to a laptop or netbook, it’s not unreasonable to expect that you would need to bring along the stock AC adapter for charging. The problem however, is that a laptop doesn’t need to be connected to another computer and set up through iTunes before it can be used for the first time. Brian makes a valid point about battery drain during a sync or OS restore operation. Apple could solve this easily enough by either implementing wireless syncing with iTunes or giving us a double-headed sync cable like you get with some portable hard drives.

  3. Lindy Electronics sells a USB adapter that will allow old apples and pc’s to charge your

  4. I have no problem powering in the US. My question is, can I use that cable to power in Europe as long as I have an adapter that has the US mode and the other end to plug in the European power source?

  5. When I purchased my ipad the Apple Sales person assured me that the charger for my ipod would work with my ipad. I have found this to be incorrect and Apple has not offered any solution to me other than to purchase an additional 10W power adapter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts