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USB Power Delivery: The fastest way to charge your iPhone and Android device

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Anker 28600 With USB PD

With the introduction of the iPhone 8 and now the iPhone XS/Max and soon to be delivered XR, with their much faster processors and vivid high-resolution displays and always-on connectivity, demands on battery performance are now higher than ever before.

As a recent owner of one of these devices, you may have noticed that while you are on the road, you’re running out of juice quickly. So you’re probably going to need to invest in a portable battery and a faster wall charger.

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

But not all portable batteries are the same, despite the fact that 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 much 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 just simply 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, and while all of them will work with your device using a common legacy charge mode, you will ideally want to match up the correct technology in order 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 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 charge 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 BC 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 want to top off the device as quickly as possible.

USB Power Delivery

USB Power Delivery (USB PD) is a relatively new fast charge standard which 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 all the way up from smartphones to notebook computers provided they use a USB-C connector and a USB-C power controller on the client and host.

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Sample charging times using USB PD technology (Source: Belkin)

Batteries and wall chargers which employ USB PD have the ability to 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, whereas 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. The iPhone 8, the iPhone X and XS/Max can rapid 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 — but it requires that you use 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.

Personally, I buy mine from Amazon but your mileage may vary.

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Apple OEM USB-C to Lightning Cable. The only fast charge cable for iPhones that currently works.

There are cheaper 3rd-party USB-C to Lightning cables, but none of the ones we have tested on the market will charge current generation iOS devices at full speed — they can’t do better than 2.4A because Apple uses a special integrated circuit in their cables for power negotiation.

We are expecting to see 3rd-party MFI-certified USB-C to Lightning cables — hopefully less expensive than Apple’s OEM cable — by the end of Q4 of 2018, so watch this space.

We would also like to mention Belkin because although they do not have a USB PD battery solution or MFI-certified USB-C cables yet, they do have some excellent USB PD wall charging and 12V car charger solutions which are much more cost-competitive than the OEM Apple 29W USB-C charger.

Qualcomm Quick Charge

Qualcomm, whose Snapdragon SoCs are used in a number of popular smartphones and tablets, has its own 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 835/845 which can be found in the US version of the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 9, OnePlus 6, HTC U11, LG V30, Moto Z2 Force, the Google Pixel 2 XL and upcoming Pixel 3 XL.

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RavPower 26000mAh with Quick Charge 3.0


ZDNet

The Xiaomi Mi 6, Xiaomi Mix 2, ZTE Nubia Z17, and the Sony Xperia XZ Premium also use QC 4.0, but they aren’t sold in the US market currently. Huawei’s phones utilize their own Kirin 970/980 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 in order to optimize for reduced heat footprint while charging.

Also: The 6 best portable battery chargers for smartphones and tablets TechRepublic

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 which use Qualcomm’s current chipsets, Quick Charge 4.0 is about 25 percent 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, 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 to buy?

Vendor Model Tech Capacity
/mAh
Port 1 Port 2 Port 3 Port 4 MSRP
RavPower RP-PB058 USB PD 26800 USB-A USB-A USB-C (30W) USB-Micro-B (Input) $79.99
Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD* USB PD 26800 USB-A USB-A USB-C (30W) * $119.99
RavPower RP-PB043 QC 3.0 20100 USB-A USB-A (QC 3.0) USB-C (18W) USB-Micro-B (Input) $49.99
RavPower RP-PB059 USB PD 20100 USB-A USB-A USB-C (30W) USB-Micro-B (Input) $69.99
Anker PowerCore Speed 20000 PD* USB PD 20100 USB-A USB-C (30W) * * $99.00
Anker PowerCore II 20000 QC 3.0 20000 USB-A (18W) USB-A (18W) * * $49.99
Mophie Powerstation USB-C XXL USB PD 19500 USB-A USB-C (30W) * * $149.95
Mophie Powerstation Plus XL USB PD 12000 USB-A (15W) USB-C (18W) * * $99

* Two Anker models — PowerCore+ 26800 PD and PowerCore Speed 20000 PD — are the only two models to include a wall charger.

We’ve tested a bunch of these and we’ve essentially narrowed it down to two: The RAVPower RP-PB058 for USB PD (newest iPhones and newest Androids) and the Anker PowerCore+ 26800 for Quick Charge 3.0 (Previous generation Androids). Both are 26800mAh batteries with huge charge capacity.

Also: Mophie 30-day wireless challenge: Staying powered up without a cable connection

Anker’s product is more expensive but it comes with a USB-C QC 3.0 wall charger that can be used with the battery or direct charge a QC 3.0 compatible device, whereas the RAVPower we have seen on the street as low as $60 with wide market availability and with Amazon Prime promotions, so be sure to shop around because that is a great value at that price.

Anker also has a USB PD version of the PowerCore+ 26800 bundle but it is not as easy to find. We suspect the company is working on a new product revision compatible with USB PD and QC 4.0 and it will be out after the holidays — but if you see the current model on sale, jump on it. We particularly like the metal case design and the large illuminated power stud button that is easy to feel even in the dark.

41vqkjl6avl.jpg41vqkjl6avl.jpg

ZMI 20000 USB PD


ZDNet

Both of these companies sell equivalent USB PD and QC 3.0 products including compatible wall chargers (see Anker and RavPower). As with Apple’s own OEM accessories, it isn’t necessary to match brands when pairing a wall charger with a USB PD or QC 3.0 battery.

However, because of licensing, the QC 3.0 ones appear to be priced more expensively — so unless you have a QC 3.0 compatible device, we suggest you stay with USB PD charging accessories for now.

A product that we did not mention in earlier drafts of this article is the ZMI 20000 mAh USB PD Backup Battery which along with its USB PD wall charger is currently on promotion at Amazon.

If you buy both of these products together, Amazon will apply a promotional discount, which makes the combined price $89.90 which is less than what Anker and RavPower offer their equivalent battery/charger bundles for.

Also: Mophie Powerstation Plus XL and XXL portable batteries: One Lightning cable to rule them all

This particular product has the distinction of having both USB PD and QC 3.0 capabilities, has a 45W USB PD output for charging everything up to laptops, and can also act as a daisy-chained USB 2.0 hub, so it is a particularly good buy. ZMI makes OEM products for Xiaomi, a huge Chinese smartphone manufacturer which like Huawei, has yet to find US carrier distribution yet.

Two other products we would like to mention are the Mophie Powerstation USB-C XXL and the Mophie Powerstation AC.

The USB-C XXL is a very nice looking battery as it integrates a fabric wrap over the polycarbonate casing so it’s pleasant to the touch — and it fully supports USB PD at 30W.

Its big brother is the Powerstation AC, which in addition to a USB-C PD and USB-A port, also has a 110VAC/100W port to supply power to virtually anything that uses standard 110V plugs, including legacy laptops and other electronic devices.

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Twitter tests new e-commerce features for tweets – TechCrunch

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Twitter confirmed it’s testing a new way to display tweets that link out to e-commerce product pages — like products on a Shopify store, for example. With a new Twitter card format, the company is experimenting with tweets that include a big “Shop” button and integrate product details directly into the tweet itself, including the product name, shop name, and product pricing.

The experiment was spotted by social media consultant Matt Navarra who tweeted out screenshots of the new experience. The original poster, based in Qatar, had seen the experiment on an Android device, he tells TechCrunch.

While these tweets would work well as ads, Twitter confirmed to us the tweet is an example of a new treatment for “organic” tweets focused on e-commerce.

This format could potentially come into play as part of Twitter’s larger push to become a creator platform, with its recently announced plans for a “Super Follow” subscription. The new product will allow Twitter users to follow a particular account for subscriber-only perks like newsletters, exclusive content, a supporter badge, and other deals and discounts. A more “shoppable” tweet format could allow these creators to direct their fans to products and merchandise, perhaps.

Twitter also briefly touched on its plans for future investments in e-commerce during its Investor Day last week, but not in great detail.

“We’re…starting to explore ways to better support commerce on Twitter,” said Twitter Revenue Lead, Bruce Falck, during the event.

“We know people come to Twitter to interact with brands and discuss their favorite products. In fact, you may have even noticed some businesses already developing creative ways to enable sales on our platform,” he explained.

“This demand gives us confidence in the power of combining real-time conversation with an engaged and intentional audience. Imagine easily discovering, and quickly purchasing a new skincare product or trendy sneaker from a brand you follow with only a few clicks,” Falck added.

But he cautioned investors that while Twitter was “excited about the potential of commerce,” it was still something that’s in “very early exploration.”

The idea that Twitter could become more of discovery network for e-commerce products is an interesting one — especially given the growth in the social commerce sector in recent months. This includes increased investment from Facebook into shopping features across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, as well as the growing attention being paid to video-based shopping.

The latter has been particularly popular, in terms of both live streamed product demos and pre-recorded short-form videos, like those on TikTok.

Shopify, for instance, partnered with TikTok on social commerce last fall. And Walmart — a suitor for TikTok’s potential U.S. spin-out (which is now on hold) — ran its own live-streamed shopping event on the video app over the holidays. A number of video shopping startups have been taking on funding in recent months, too.

Twitter, meanwhile, may have dialed down its video ambitions over the years with the closure of Vine and now, Periscope, but it’s not without tools to make shopping more interesting on its platform, if it chose to do so. It still has integrated tools for posting photos, videos and even live video content. Combined with a Twitter Card that includes pricing and a big “Shop” button, people’s tweets could drive sales.

Or, in other words, a Twitter Card that points you directly to a product page could be just the start of what’s to come.

In fact, Twitter itself says it has a number of plans for social commerce.

“This is the first of many experiments in the commerce space and we will enrich the experience as we learn more,” a spokesperson said.

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Facebook can save itself by becoming a B Corporation – TechCrunch

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As Facebook confronts outrage among its employees and the public for mishandling multiple decisions about its role in shaping public discourse, it is becoming clear that it cannot solve its conundrums without a major change in its business model. And a new model is readily available: for-benefit status.

For decades, a misguided ideology has warped companies, economies and societies: that the sole purpose of corporations is to maximize short-term returns to one set of stakeholders — those who have bought shares. Neither law nor history requires this to be true.

But shareholder value-maximization ideology has become cemented in far too much corporate practice at the expense of societal well-being. This is manifested in many ways: a slavish adherence to the judgment of the “market,” even when other social signals are more powerful; executives enriched by stock options; companies fearful of “activist investors” who attack whenever stock prices fail to meet quarterly “expectations” and often-frivolous shareholder lawsuits pushing for stock gains at all costs.

The pandemic, however, has accelerated an already-spreading recognition that shareholder value maximization is often a harmful choice — not by any means a moral imperative or even a fiduciary responsibility.

Major institutions of capitalism are converging on a new vision for it. The 2019 Business Roundtable CEO statement said that corporate strategy should benefit all stakeholders – including shareholders, yes, but equally customers, employees, suppliers, and the communities in which companies operate. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s recent annual letters assert new views of how that investment company, the world’s largest, should invest the trillions it oversees.

Fink’s 2019 letter spelled out a new vision for corporate purpose; the subsequent 2020 and 2021 letters focused on business’ responsibility around climate change, particularly in light of the pandemic. The B Corporation and conscious capitalism movements are growing. The World Economic Forum is championing a “Fourth Sector,” combining purpose with profit. Business schools, facing student rebellions against a purely profit-maximizing curriculum, are rapidly changing what they teach.

And with society under siege, many more businesses, including social media, are scrambling to seem like good corporate citizens. They have no choice.

Facebook, for example, has doubled down on philanthropy and new efforts to combat misinformation, even as usage and share price soar. Platforms like WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) have become essential services to connect people whose physical ties have been abruptly severed during the global pandemic. Shelter-in-place has become, in many ways, shelter-in-Facebook-properties.

But Facebook and its brethren remain fragile. Since the 2016 presidential election in the U.S., Facebook has faced governmental hearings and regulation, public uproar (#deleteFacebook), and huge fines for invading privacy and undermining democracy. These calls were amplified in the weeks following the January 6 Capitol riot. Separately, it faces allegations of bias, largely (though not entirely) from the political right. These have led to calls for the revocation or reform of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which grants it immunity from the actions of its users.

A giant company that is simultaneously essential and pilloried is vulnerable. Just ask the ghosts of John D. Rockefeller and his fellow robber barons, whose huge monopolies industrialized America more than 100 years ago. Journalistic muckrakers and public outrage targeted them for their abusive practices until the government finally broke up their companies via antitrust legislation.

Because Mark Zuckerberg maintains complete majority control of Facebook, he could unilaterally quell public opprobrium and fend off heavy-handed regulation singlehandedly by transforming Facebook into a new kind of business: a for-benefit corporation.

Under the Public Benefit Corporation legal model, firms bind themselves to a public benefit mission statement and carry out required ongoing reporting on both the standard financials and on how the company is living up to its mission. That status protects the company against profit-demanding shareholder lawsuits, and also attracts employees and investors who want to combine profit with purpose.

Data.world is one of the thousands of certified B Corporations that have seen good returns on financial metrics. Allbirds, for example, launched in a few sustainable materials using a pro-sustainability process to manufacture comfortable shoes, quickly reaching revenues of $100 million and valuation of $1.7 billion in an industry fraught with sustainability and human rights concerns. Other household names that are B Corps include The Body Shop, Coursera, Danone, the Jamie Oliver Group, King Arthur Flour, Numi Tea and Patagonia.

Many companies that have not undergone formal B Certification from B Labs have nonetheless done well while transforming their business practices, such as the carpet and flooring company Interface. Some firms incorporate ESG principles into their management systems – the $24 billion (market cap) Dutch life sciences company DSM has for years had meaningful sustainability targets for its senior management that account for fully 50 percent of their annual bonuses. Both Interface and DSM attribute much of their commercial success to their attention to non-financial considerations.

A for-benefit Facebook could similarly relate to the world differently, avoiding many of the reputational shocks and regulatory responses that have led to huge stock dips and enormous fines. Its operations would align with Zuckerberg’s proclaimed purpose to enable the potential abundance that results from connecting everyone in the world.

Imagine a Facebook town hall as a true public square, not just another way to gather and sell people’s data without their explicit consent. Imagine a Facebook that put its users first and its advertisers second; that revealed where ads came from; that earned your attention in a way that you controlled rather than through machine-driven algorithms maximizing your attention for good or ill. Such a for-benefit Facebook could create true buy-in and transparency with its massive community around the world.

Of course, such steps as Facebook’s new Oversight Board, which may provide some meaningful review, don’t require a legal change. But if shareholders and employees continue to be rewarded primarily by the success of the problematic ad revenue model, a continuing conflict between private gain and public benefit makes it impossible to have confidence about what is happening behind the scenes. A shift to for-benefit incorporation and appropriate certification brings with it different performance metrics and accountability systems with public scores.

In changing Facebook into a for-benefit corporation, Zuckerberg could insulate himself against presidential rage while rehabilitating his reputation — and his company’s. It would likely create vast ripples both in Silicon Valley and beyond — and it might help transform capitalism itself.

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TikTok calls in outside help with content moderation in Europe – TechCrunch

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TikTok is bringing in external experts in Europe in fields such as child safety, young people’s mental health and extremism to form a Safety Advisory Council to help it with content moderation in the region.

The move, announced today, follows an emergency intervention by Italy’s data protection authority in January — which ordered TikTok to block users it cannot age verify after the death of a girl who was reported by local media to have died of asphyxiation as a result of participating in a black out challenge on the video sharing platform.

The social media platform has also been targeted by a series of coordinated complaints by EU consumer protection agencies, which put out two reports last month detailing a number of alleged breaches of the bloc’s consumer protection and privacy rules — including child safety-specific concerns.

“We are always reviewing our existing features and policies, and innovating to take bold new measures to prioritise safety,” TikTok writes today, putting a positive spin on needing to improve safety on its platform in the region.

“The Council will bring together leaders from academia and civil society from all around Europe. Each member brings a different, fresh perspective on the challenges we face and members will provide subject matter expertise as they advise on our content moderation policies and practices. Not only will they support us in developing forward-looking policies that address the challenges we face today, they will also help us to identify emerging issues that affect TikTok and our community in the future.”

It’s not the first such advisory body TikTok has launched. A year ago it announced a US Safety Advisory Council, after coming under scrutiny from US lawmakers concerned about the spread of election disinformation and wider data security issues, including accusations the Chinese-owned app was engaging in censorship at the behest of the Chinese government.

But the initial appointees to TikTok’s European content moderation advisory body suggest its regional focus is more firmly on child safety/young people’s mental health and extremism and hate speech, reflecting some of the main areas where it’s come under the most scrutiny from European lawmakers, regulators and civil society so far.

TikTok has appointed nine individuals to its European Council (listed here) — initially bringing in external expertise in anti-bullying, youth mental health and digital parenting; online child sexual exploitation/abuse; extremism and deradicalization; anti-bias/discrimination and hate crimes — a cohort it says it will expand as it adds more members to the body (“from more countries and different areas of expertise to support us in the future”).

TikTok is also likely to have an eye on new pan-EU regulation that’s coming down the pipe for platforms operating in the region.

EU lawmakers recently put forward a legislative proposal that aims to dial up accountability for digital service providers over the content they push and monetize. The Digital Services Act, which is currently in draft, going through the bloc’s co-legislative process, will regulate how a wide range of platforms must act to remove explicitly illegal content (such as hate speech and child sexual exploitation).

The Commission’s DSA proposal avoided setting specific rules for platforms to tackle a broader array of harms — such as issues like youth mental health — which, by contrast, the UK is proposing to address in its plan to regulate social media (aka the Online Safety bill). However the planned legislation is intended to drive accountability around digital services in a variety of ways.

For example, it contains provisions that would require larger platforms — a category TikTok would most likely fall into — to provide data to external researchers so they can study the societal impacts of services. It’s not hard to imagine that provision leading to some head-turning (independent) research into the mental health impacts of attention-grabbing services. So the prospect is platforms’ own data could end up translating into negative PR for their services — i.e. if they’re shown to be failing to create a safe environment for users.

Ahead of that oversight regime coming in, platforms have increased incentive to up their outreach to civil society in Europe so they’re in a better position to skate to where the puck is headed.

 

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