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Curious Samsung smartphone micro-USB charger issue

In the past I had a Samsung Moment that had an infuriating issue with charging — after a while, it would get very picky about which chargers it wanted to accept. The phone would either charge or not, or intermittently cut out from the charger.

I replaced the phone at least once that I can recall and had the issue start up about a month after getting the new phone. Frustrated, I replaced it with a Blackberry.

Now I have a Samsung Epic 4G and without a second thought I plugged it in to my USB cable and charged it right after I got it.

When I went to plug it in to the charger on my nightstand, it wouldn’t charge. I put a 120v-to-USB adapter on the USB cable and charged it like that for the time. I blamed it on chargers not outputting enough voltage, and told myself I’d look into it another day.

Today I finally got around to testing it with various chargers, and the results were interesting:

  • NONE of my Samsung-branded wall chargers worked.
  • My Samsung-branded USB cable didn’t work.
  • My Blackberry-branded USB cable worked.
  • A Belkin-branded USB cable worked.

Interesting, no? I took a closer look at the male micro-USB connectors.

Click for larger image with mark-up

The photo above — being the best I could do with my camera — shows the Samsung-branded cable on top and the Blackberry-branded cable on the bottom. Notice (if you’re able) that the Samsung-branded cable is shorter — about 0.5mm shorter, actually. The Samsung cable is about 5.5mm and the Blackberry (and the Belkin) is about 6mm.

My opinion is that the female micro-USB on the phone, when new and snug, accepts the 5.5mm plug. As the receptacle starts to wear, the shielding and insulation shift ever-so-slightly and the 5.5mm plug no longer fits correctly. The phone charges fine with a 6mm plug. I’ve heard from plenty of people with Samsung devices that have charger issues that the phone gets “picky” about which chargers it accepts. I suspect this is the reason.

What happens over time with a 6mm plug? Well, since I’m coming back to update this post I’ll tell you that with the 6mm microUSB the port eventually failed (again?). I took the phone to Sprint and they said the port failed and agreed to replace the phone. And now… the 5.5mm Samsung plugs are snug and the 6mm generics almost seem too tight. Is it that the 6mm plugs lead to premature failure of the port? I honestly don’t know… but — Samsung devices seem to be the only devices with this issue that I’m aware of.

If you have anything to share about the above, please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments below. Thank you!

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