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Batteries not included: USB Power Delivery is the fastest way to charge iPhone and Android devices

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Anker 28600 With USB PD


ZDNet

With the current generation of smartphones with their much faster processors and vivid, high-resolution displays and always-on connectivity, demands on battery performance are now higher than ever before.

You may have noticed that while you are on the road, you’re running out of juice quickly. If you have this problem, portable batteries, and faster wall chargers are your solutions.

Also: Here’s how much it costs to charge a smartphone for a year

But not all portable batteries are the same, even though they might use similar Lithium Polymer (LiPo) and Lithium-Ion (Lion) cells for capacity and look very much alike.

Modern smartphone hardware from Apple and various Android manufacturers support faster-charging rates than what was previously supported.

But if you use the charger that comes in the box with the current generation iPhone hardware, or if you buy just any portable battery pack on the market, you’re going to be disappointed.

Ideally, you want to match your charger, battery, and even the charging cable to the optimal charging speeds that your device supports.

There are three different high-speed USB charging standards currently on the market. While all of them will work with your device using a standard legacy charge mode, you will ideally want to match up the right technology to optimize the speed in which you can top off your phone, tablet, or even your laptop.

Let’s start by explaining the differences between them.

Legacy USB-A 2.0 and 3.0 charging

If your Android device or accessory still has the USB Micro B connector (the dreaded fragile trapezoid that’s impossible to connect in the dark), you can fast-charge it using an inexpensive USB-A to USB Micro B cable.

If the device and the charger port both support the USB 2.0 standard (pretty much the least common denominator these days for entry-level Android smartphones), you can charge it at 1.5A/5V.

Also: How I learned to stop worrying and love USB Type-C

Some consumer electronics, such as higher-end vape batteries that use the Evolv DNA chipset, can charge at 2A.

A USB 3.0/3.1 charge port on one of these batteries can supply 3.0A/5V if the device supports it.

If you are charging an accessory, such as an inexpensive pair of wireless earbuds or another Bluetooth device, and it doesn’t support either of the USB-A fast charging specs, it will slow charge at either 500mA or 900mA which is about the same you can expect from directly connecting it to most PCs.

Mode Voltage Max Current Connector
USB PD Variable up to 20V 5A USB-C
USB Type-C 3A 5V 3.0A USB-C
USB Type-C 1.5A 5V 1.5A USB-C
QC 4.0 (USB-PD Compatible) Variable up to 20V 4.6A USB-C
QC 3.0 Variable up to 20V 4.6A USB-A/USB-C
QC 2.0 5V, 9V, 12V, 20V 2A USB-A
USB FC 1.2 5V 1.5A USB-A
USB 3.1 5V 900mA USB-A
USB 2.0 5V 500mA USB-A

Many of the portable batteries on the market have both USB-C and multiple USB-A ports. Some of them have USB-A ports which can deliver the same voltage, while others feature one fast (2.4A) and one slow (1A).

So you will want to make sure you plug the device into the battery port, which can charge it at the fastest rate if you’re going to top off the device as quickly as possible.

USB Power Delivery

USB Power Delivery (USB PD) is a relatively new fast charge standard that was introduced by the USB Implementers Forum, the creators of the USB standard.

It is an industry-standard open specification that provides high-speed charging with variable voltage up to 20V using intelligent device negotiation up to 5A at 100W.

It scales up from smartphones to notebook computers provided they use a USB-C connector and a USB-C power controller on the client and host.

image-12-13-19-at-9-32-am.jpg

USB Fast-Charge Standards


Image: Belkin

Batteries and wall chargers that employ USB PD can charge devices up to 100W output using a USB-C connector — however, most output at 30W because that is on the upper range of what most smartphones and tablets can handle. In contrast, laptops require adapters and batteries that can output at a higher wattage.

Apple introduced USB PD charging with iOS devices with the launch of the 2015 iPad Pro 12.9″ and with OS X laptops in the MacBook Pro as of 2016. Apple’s smartphones beginning with the iPhone 8 can rapidly charge with USB PD using any USB PD charging accessory — you don’t have to use Apple’s OEM USB-C 29W or its 61W power adapters. 

In 2019, Apple released an 18W USB-C Power Adapter which comes with the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. Although Apple’s charger works just fine, you’ll probably want to consider a third-party wall charger for the regular iPhone 11 or an earlier model.

Fast-charging an iPhone requires the use of a USB-C to Lightning cable, which until 2019, needed Apple’s OEM MKQ42AM/A (1m ) or MD818ZM/A (2m) USB-C to Lightning cables which unfortunately are a tad expensive at around $19-$35 from various online retailers such as Amazon. 

apple-usbc-to-lightning.jpg

Apple OEM USB-C to Lightning Cable.

There are cheaper 3rd-party USB-C to Lightning cables. I am currently partial to USB-C to Lightning cables from Anker, which are highly durable and are MFI-certified for use with Apple’s devices.

It should be noted that if you intend to use your smartphone with either Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto, your vehicle will probably still require a USB-A to USB-C or a USB-A to Lightning cable if it doesn’t support these screen projection technologies wirelessly. You can’t fast-charge with either of these types of cables in most cars, and there is no way to pass-through a fast charge to a 12V USB PD accessory while being connected to a data cable, either.

Qualcomm Quick Charge

Qualcomm, whose Snapdragon SoCs are used in many popular smartphones and tablets, has its fast-charging standard, Quick Charge, which has been through multiple iterations.

The current implementation is Quick Charge 4.0, which is backward-compatible with older Quick Charge accessories and devices. Unlike USB PD, Quick Charge 2.0 and 3.0 can be delivered using the USB-A connector. Quick Charge 4.0 is exclusive to USB-C.

Quick Charge 4.0 is only present in phones which use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8xx, which is present in many North American tier 1 OEM Android devices made by Samsung, LG, Motorola, OnePlus, ZTE, and Google.

ravpower-26000.jpg

RavPower 26000mAh with Quick Charge 3.0


ZDNet

The Xiaomi, ZTE Nubia and the Sony Xperia devices also use QC 4.0, but they aren’t sold in the US market currently. Huawei’s phones utilize their own Kirin 970/980/990 chips, which use their own Supercharge standard, but they are backward compatible with the 18W USB PD standard.

Like USB PD, QC 3.0 and QC 4.0 are variable voltage technologies and will intelligently ramp up your device for optimal charging speeds and safety. However, Quick Charge 3.0 and 4.0 differ from USB PD in that it has some additional features for thermal management and voltage stepping with the Snapdragon 820/821/835/845/855 to optimize for reduced heat footprint while charging.

It also uses a different variable voltage selection and negotiation protocol than USB PD, which Qualcomm advertises as better/safer for its own SoCs.

And for devices that use Qualcomm’s current chipsets, Quick Charge 4.0 is about 25% faster than Quick Charge 3.0. The company advertises five hours of usage time on the device for five minutes of charge time.

However, while it is present in (some of ) the wall chargers that ship with the devices themselves, and a few 3rd-party solutions, Quick Charge 4 is not in any battery products yet. The reason for this is that it is not just competing with USB Power Delivery, it is also compatible with USB Power Delivery.

Qualcomm’s technology and ICs have to be licensed at considerable additional expense to the OEMs, whereas USB PD is an open standard.

If you compound this with the fact that Google itself is recommending OEMs conform to USB PD over Quick Charge for Android-based products, it sounds like USB PD is the way to go, right?

Well, sort of. If you have a Quick Charge 3.0 device, definitely get a Quick Charge 3.0 battery. But if you have a Quick Charge 4.0 device or an iOS device, get at USB PD battery for now.

Which Battery?

Now that you understand the fundamental charging technologies, which battery should you buy? When the first version of this article was released in 2018, the product selection on the market was much more limited — there are now dozens of vendors currently manufacturing USB PD products. Still, ZDNet recommends the following brands and models:

Anker (One of the largest Chinese manufacturers of Apple-certified accessories)

RavPower (Similar to Anker, typically more price competitive)

ZMI (Accessories ODM for Xiaomi, one of China’s largest smartphone manufacturers)

Aukey (Large Chinese accessories manufacturer, value pricing)

Mophie (Premium construction, Apple Store OEM accessory)

Zendure (High-end, ruggedized construction, high output ports)

Goalzero (Similar to Zendure)

OmniCharge (High-end, enterprise, vertical-industry targeted, advanced metering and power flow control)

Which wall/desktop charger?

As with the batteries, there are many vendors providing USB PD wall charging accessories. Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology, in particular, is something you should stronger consider in a wall charger if you are looking for maximum space efficiency in your travel bag and for power output. ZDNet recommends the following brands and products.

Anker

Aukey

RavPower

Zendure

  • SuperPort 4
  • 45W Wall Charger


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    Facebook rolls out new tools for Group admins, including automated moderation aids – TechCrunch

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    Facebook today introduced a new set of tools aimed at helping Facebook Group administrators get a better handle on their online communities and, potentially, help keep conversations from going off the rails. Among the more interesting new tools is a machine learning-powered feature that alerts admins to potentially unhealthy conversations taking place in their group. Another lets the admin slow down the pace of a heated conversation, by limiting how often group members can post.

    Facebook Groups are today are significant reason why people continue to use the social network. Today, there are “tens of millions” of groups, that are managed by over 70 million active admins and moderators worldwide, Facebook says.

    The company for years has been working to roll out better tools for these group owners, who often get overwhelmed by the administrative responsibilities that come with running an online community at scale. As a result, many admins give up the job and leave groups to run somewhat unmanaged — thus allowing them to turn into breeding grounds for misinformation, spam and abuse.

    Facebook last fall tried to address this problem by rolling out new group policies to crack down on groups without an active admin, among other things. Of course, the company’s preference would be to keep groups running and growing by making them easier to operate.

    That’s where today’s new set of features come in.

    A new dashboard called Admin Home will centralize admin tools, settings and features in one place, as well as present “pro tips” that suggest other helpful tools tailored to the group’s needs.

    Image Credits: Facebook

    Another new Admin Assist feature will allow admins to automatically moderate comments in their groups by setting up criteria that can restrict comments and posts more proactively, instead of forcing admins to go back after the fact and delete them, which can be problematic — especially after a discussion has been underway and members are invested in the conversation.

    For example, admins can now restrict people from posting if they haven’t had a Facebook account for very long or if they had recently violated the group’s rules. Admins can also automatically decline posts that contain specific promotional content (perhaps MLM links! Hooray!) and then share feedback with the author of the post automatically about why those posts aren’t allowed.

    Admins can also take advantage of suggested preset criteria from Facebook to help with limiting spam and managing conflict.

    Image Credits: Facebook

    One notable update is a new moderation alert type dubbed “conflict alerts.” This feature, currently in testing, will notify admins when a potentially contentious or unhealthy conversation is taking place in the group, Facebook says. This would allow an admin to quickly take an action — like turning off comments, limiting who could comment, removing a post, or however else they would want to approach the situation.

    Conflict alerts are powered by machine learning, Facebook explains. Its machine learning model looks at multiple signals, including reply time and comment volume to determine if engagement between users has or might lead to negative interactions, the company says.

    This is sort of like an automated expansion on the Keyword Alerts feature many admins already use to look for certain topics that lead to contentious conversations.

    Image Credits: Facebook

    A related feature, also new, would allow admins to also limit how often specific members could comment, or how often comments could be added to posts admins select.

    When enabled, members can leave 1 comment every 5 minutes. The idea here is that forcing users to pause and consider their words amid a heated debate could lead to more civilized conversations. We’ve seen this concept enacted on other social networks, as well — such as with Twitter’s nudges to read articles before retweeting, or those that flag potentially harmful replies, giving you a chance to re-edit your post.

    Image Credits: Facebook

    Facebook, however, has largely embraced engagement on its platform, even when it’s not leading to positive interactions or experiences. Though small, this particular feature is an admission that building a healthy online community means sometimes people shouldn’t be able to immediately react and comment with whatever thought first popped into their head.

    Additionally, Facebook is testing tools that allow admins to temporarily limit activity from certain group members.

    If used, admins will be able to determine how many posts (between 1 and 9 posts) per day a given member may share, and for how long that limit should be in effect for (every 12 hours, 24 hours, 3 days, 7 days, 14 days, or 28 days). Admins will also be able to determine how many comments (between 1 and 30 comments, in 5 comment increments) per hour a given member may share, and for how long that limit should be in effect (also every 12 hours, 24 hours, 3 days, 7 days, 14 days, or 28 days).

    Along these same lines of building healthier communities, a new member summary feature will give admins an overview of each member’s activity on their group, allowing them to see how many times they’ve posted and commented, have had posts removed, or have been muted.

    Image Credits: Facebook

    Facebook doesn’t say how admins are to use this new tool, but one could imagine admins taking advantage of the detailed summary to do the occasional cleanup of their member base by removing bad actors who continually disrupt discussions. They could also use it to locate and elevate regulator contributors without violations to moderator roles, perhaps.

    Admins will also be able to tag their group rules in comment sections, disallow certain post types (e.g. Polls or Events), and submit an appeal to Facebook to re-review decisions related to group violations, if in error.

    Image Credits: Facebook

    Of particular interest, though a bit buried amid the slew of other news, is the return of Chats, which was previously announced.

    Facebook had abruptly removed Chat functionality back in 2019, possibly due to spam, some had speculated. (Facebook said it was product infrastructure.) As before, Chats can have up to 250 people, including active members and those who opted into notifications from the chats. Once this limit is reached, other members will not be able to engage with that specific chat room until existing active participants either leave the chat or opt out of notifications.

    Now, Facebook group members can start, find and engage in Chats with others within Facebook Groups instead of using Messenger. Admins and moderators can also have their own chats.

    Notably, this change follows on the heels of growth from messaging-based social networks, like IRL, a new unicorn (due to its $1.17B valuation), as well as the growth seen by other messaging apps, like Telegram, Signal and other alternative social networks.

    Image Credits: Facebook

    Along with this large set of new features, Facebook also made changes to some existing features, based on feedback from admins.

    It’s now testing pinned comments and introduced a new “admin announcement” post type that notifies group members of the important news (if notifications are being received for that group).

    Plus, admins will be able to share feedback when they decline group members.

    Image Credits: Facebook

    The changes are rolling out across Facebook Groups globally in the coming weeks.

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    Spotify launches its live audio app and Clubhouse rival, Spotify Greenroom – TechCrunch

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    In March, Spotify announced it was acquiring the company behind the sports-focused audio app Locker Room to help speed its entry into the live audio market. Today, the company is making good on that deal with the launch of Spotify Greenroom, a new mobile app that allows Spotify users worldwide to join or host live audio rooms, and optionally turn those conversations into podcasts. It’s also announcing a Creator Fund which will help to fuel the new app with more content in the future.

    The Spotify Greenroom app itself is based on Locker Room’s existing code. In fact, Spotify tells us, current Locker Room users will see their app update to become the rebranded and redesigned Greenroom experience, starting today.

    Where Locker Room had used a white-and-reddish orange color scheme, the new Greenroom app looks very much like an offshoot from Spotify, having adopted the same color palette, font and iconography.

    To join the new app, Spotify users will sign in with their current Spotify account information. They’ll then be walked through an onboarding experience designed to connect them with their interests.

    Image Credits: Spotify

    For the time being, the process of finding audio programs to listen to relies primarily on users joining groups inside the app. That’s much like how Locker Room had operated, where its users would find and follow favorite sports teams. However, Greenroom’s groups are more general interest now, as it’s no longer only tied to sports.

    In time, Spotify tells us the plan is for Greenroom to leverage Spotify’s personalization technology to better connect users to content they would want to hear. For example, it could send out notifications to users if a podcaster you already followed on Spotify went live on Spotify Greenroom. Or it could leverage its understanding of what sort of podcasts and music you listen to in order to make targeted recommendations. These are longer-term plans, however.

    As for Spotify Greenroom’s feature set, it’s largely on par with other live audio offerings — including those from Clubhouse, Twitter (Spaces) and Facebook (Live Audio Rooms). Speakers in the room appear at the top of the screen as rounded profile icons, while listeners appear below as smaller icons. There are mute options, moderation controls, and the ability to bring listeners on stage during the live audio session. Rooms can host up to 1,000 people, and Spotify expects to scale that number up later on.

    Image Credits: Spotify

    Listeners can also virtually applaud speakers by giving them “gems” in the app — a feature that came over from Locker Room, too. The number of gems a speaker earned displays next to their profile image during a session. For now, there’s no monetary value associated with the gems, but that seems an obvious next step as Greenroom today offers no form of monetization.

    It’s worth noting there are a few key differentiators between Spotify Greenroom and similar live audio apps. For starters, it offers a live text chat feature that the host can turn on or off whenever they choose. Hosts can also request the audio file of their live audio session after it wraps, which they can then edit to turn into a podcast episode.

    Perhaps most importantly is that the live audio sessions are being recorded by Spotify itself. The company says this is for moderation purposes. If a user reports something in a Greenroom audio room, Spotify can go back to look into the matter, to determine what sort of actions may need to be taken. This is an area Clubhouse has struggled with, as its users have sometimes encountered toxicity and abuse in the app in real-time, including in troubling areas like racism and misogyny. Recently, Clubhouse said it had to shut down a number of rooms for antisemitism and hate speech, as well.

    Spotify says the moderation of Spotify Greenroom will be handled by its existing content moderation team. Of course, how quickly Spotify will be able react to boot users or shut down live audio rooms that are in violation of its Code of Conduct remains to be seen.

    While the app launching today is focused on user-generated live audio content, Spotify has larger plans for Greenroom. Later this summer, the company plans to make announcements around programmed content — something it says is a huge priority — alongside the launch of other new features. This will include programming related to music, culture, and entertainment, in addition the to sports content Locker Room was known for.

    Image Credits: Spotify

    The company also says it will be marketing Spotify Greenroom to artists through its Spotify for Artists channels, in hopes of seeding the app with more music-focused content. And it confirmed that monetization options for creators will come further down the road, too, but isn’t talking about what those may look like in specific detail for the moment.

    In addition, Spotify is today announcing the Spotify Creator Fund, which will help audio creators in the U.S. generate revenue for their work. The company, however, declined to share any details on this front, either– like the size of fund, how much creators would receive, time frame for distributions, selection criteria or other factors. Instead, it’s only offering a sign-up form for those who may be interested in hearing more about this opportunity in the future. That may make it difficult for creators to weigh their options, when there are now so many.

    Spotify Greenroom is live today on both iOS and Android across 135 markets around the world. That’s not quite the global footprint of Spotify itself, though, which is available in 178 markets. It’s also only available in the English language for the time being, but plans on expanding as it grows.

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    Biden admin will share more info with online platforms on ‘front lines’ of domestic terror fight – TechCrunch

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    The Biden administration is outlining new plans to combat domestic terrorism in light of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and social media companies have their own part to play.

    The White House released a new national strategy on countering domestic terrorism Tuesday. The plan acknowledges the key role that online platforms play in bringing violent ideas into the mainstream, going as far as calling social media sites the “front lines” of the war on domestic terrorism.

    “The widespread availability of domestic terrorist recruitment material online is a national security threat whose front lines are overwhelmingly private–sector online platforms, and we are committed to informing more effectively the escalating efforts by those platforms to secure those front lines,” the White House plan states.

    The Biden administration committed to more information sharing with the tech sector to fight the tide of online extremism, part of a push to intervene well before extremists can organize violence. According to a fact sheet on the new domestic terror plan, the U.S. government will prioritize “increased information sharing with the technology sector,” specifically online platforms where extremism is incubated and organized.

    “Continuing to enhance the domestic terrorism–related information offered to the private sector, especially the technology sector, will facilitate more robust efforts outside the government to counter terrorists’ abuse of Internet–based communications platforms to recruit others to engage in violence,” the White House plan states.

    In remarks timed with the release of the domestic terror strategy, Attorney General Merrick Garland asserted that coordinating with the tech sector is “particularly important” for interrupting extremists who organize and recruit on online platforms and emphasized plans to share enhanced information on potential domestic terror threats.

    In spite of the new initiatives, the Biden administration admits that that domestic terrorism recruitment material will inevitably remain available online, particularly on platforms that don’t prioritize its removal — like most social media platforms, prior to January 2021 — and on end-to-end encrypted apps, many of which saw an influx of users when social media companies cracked down on extremism in the U.S. earlier this year.

    “Dealing with the supply is therefore necessary but not sufficient: we must address the demand too,” the White House plan states. “Today’s digital age requires an American population that can utilize essential aspects of Internet–based communications platforms while avoiding vulnerability to domestic terrorist recruitment and other harmful content.”

    The Biden administration will also address vulnerability to online extremism through digital literacy programs, including “educational materials” and “skills–enhancing online games” designed to inoculate Americans against domestic extremism recruitment efforts, and presumably disinformation and misinformation more broadly.

    The plan stops short of naming domestic terror elements like QAnon and the “Stop the Steal” movement specifically, though it acknowledges the range of ways domestic terror can manifest, from small informal groups to organized militias.

    A report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in March observed the elevated threat to the U.S. that domestic terrorism poses in 2021, noting that domestic extremists leverage mainstream social media sites to recruit new members, organize in-person events and share materials that can lead to violence.

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