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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.

apple-usbc-to-lightning.jpgapple-usbc-to-lightning.jpg

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.

ravpower-26000.jpgravpower-26000.jpg

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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YouTube introduces new features to address toxic comments – TechCrunch

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YouTube today announced it’s launching a new feature that will push commenters to reconsider their hateful and offensive remarks before posting. It will also begin testing a filter that allows creators to avoid having to read some of the hurtful comments on their channel that had been automatically held for review. The new features are meant to address longstanding issues with the quality of comments on YouTube’s platform — a problem creators have complained about for years.

The company said it will also soon run a survey aimed at giving equal opportunity to creators, and whose data can help the company to better understand how some creators are more disproportionately impacted by online hate and harassment.

The new commenting feature, rolling out today, is a significant change for YouTube.

The feature appears when users are about to post something offensive in a video’s comments section and warns to “Keep comments respectful.” The message also tells users to check the site’s Community Guidelines if they’re not sure if a comment is appropriate.

The pop-up then nudges users to click the “Edit” button and revise their comment by making “Edit” the more prominent choice on the screen that appears.

The feature will not actually prevent a user from posting their comment, however. If they want to proceed, they can click the “Post Anyway” option instead.

Image Credits: YouTube

The idea to put up roadblocks to give users time to pause and reconsider their words and actions is something several social media platforms are now doing.

For instance, Instagram last year launched a feature that would flag offensive comments before they were posted. It later expanded that to include offensive captions. Without providing data, the company claimed that these “nudges” were helping to reduce online bullying. Meanwhile, Twitter this year began to push users to read the article linked in tweets they were about to share before tweeting their reaction, and it stopped users from being able to retweet with just one click.

These intentional pauses built into the social platforms are designed to stop people from reacting to content with heightened emotion and anger, and instead push users to be more thoughtful in what they say and do. User interface changes like this leverage basic human psychology to work, and may even prove effective in some percentage of cases. But platforms have been hesitant to roll out such tweaks as they can stifle user engagement.

In YouTube’s case, the company tells TechCrunch its systems will learn what’s considered offensive based on what content gets repeatedly flagged by users. Over time, this AI-powered system should be able to improve as the technology gets better at detection and the system itself is further developed.

Users on Android in the English language will see the new prompts first, starting today, Google says. The rollout will complete over the next couple of days. The company did not offer a time frame for the feature’s support for other platforms and languages or even a firm commitment that such support would arrive in the future.

In addition, YouTube said it will also now begin testing a feature for creators who use YouTube Studio to manage their channel.

Creators will be able to try out a new filter that will hide the offensive and hurtful comments that have automatically been held for review.

Today, YouTube Studio users can choose to auto-moderate potentially inappropriate comments, which they can then manually review and choose to approve, hide or report. While it’s helpful to have these held, it’s still often difficult for creators to have to deal with these comments at all, as online trolls can be unbelievably cruel. With the filter, creators can avoid these potentially offensive comments entirely.

YouTube says it will also streamline its moderation tools to make the review process easier going forward.

The changes follow a year during which YouTube has been heavily criticized for not doing enough to combat hate speech and misinformation on its platform. The video platform’s “strikes” system for rule violations means that videos may be individually removed but a channel itself can stay online unless it collects enough strikes to be taken down. In practice, that means a YouTube creator could be as violent as calling for government officials to be beheaded and still continue to use YouTube. (By comparison, that same threat led to an account ban on Twitter.)

YouTube claims it has increased the number of daily hate speech comment removals by 46x since early 2019. And in the last quarter, of the more than 1.8 million channels it terminated for violating policies, more than 54,000 terminations were for hate speech. That indicates a growing problem with online discourse that likely influenced these new measures. Some would argue the platforms have a responsibility to do even more, but it’s a difficult balance.

In a separate move, YouTube said it’s soon introducing a new survey that will ask creators to voluntarily share with YouTube information about their gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity. Using the data collected, YouTube claims it will be able to better examine how content from different communities is treated in search, discovery and monetization systems.

It will also look for possible patterns of hate, harassment and discrimination that could affect some communities more than others, the company explains. And the survey will give creators the option to participate in other initiatives that YouTube hosts, like #YouTubeBlack creator gatherings or FanFest, for instance.

This survey will begin in 2021 and was designed in consultation with input from creators and civil and human rights experts. YouTube says the collected data will not be used for advertising purposes, and creators will have the ability to opt-out and delete their information entirely at any time.

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Twitter finally shuts down its abandoned prototype app twttr – TechCrunch

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Twitter is shutting down its experimental app twttr, which the company had used publicly prototype new features back in 2019. The app was first introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2019, then launched to testers that March. Its primary focus had been on trying out new designs for threaded conversations, including things like how to branch replies, apply labels and color-code responses, among other things. Some of those tests eventually turned into Twitter features and the twttr app was no longer being used.

The idea to design in public was an interesting experiment by Twitter.

Most companies roll out internal beta tests, followed by smaller-scale A/B tests to a percentage of their public user base to get feedback about new ideas. But with twttr, the company actually invited its users to be a part of the much earlier stage development process.

The concept for twttr had been spearheaded by Twitter’s then Director of Product Management, Sara Beykpour (then Sara Haider — she and Twitter Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour have since married). But Sara announced last year she would be stepping into a new role at the company and Twitter’s new product director in charge of conversations would be Suzanne Xie, who had joined by way of Twitter’s acquisition of Lightwell.

Work on twttr appeared to stop around the time Xie stepped in, as no other significant updates were released to twttr’s TestFlight user base. And Xie left Twitter this fall for Stripe.

Now, it seems that maintaining the largely unused app no longer makes sense for the company.

Twitter announced its plans to formally shut down twttr today, saying it was turning off the app in order to work on new tests related to the conversation taking place on Twitter itself. The shutdown appears to be immediate. Though the app may still function for those who have it installed, when the TestFlight build expires in 26 days, that may no longer be the case.

It’s not likely that twttr had many dedicated users at this point, especially as the app lacked Twitter’s newer features like Topics and Fleets, for example, and was no longer offering new experiments to test.

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Salesforce buys Slack in a $27.7B megadeal – TechCrunch

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Salesforce, the CRM powerhouse that recently surpassed $20 billion in annual revenue, announced today it is wading deeper into enterprise social by acquiring Slack in a $27.7 billion megadeal. Rumors of a pending deal surfaced last week, causing Slack’s stock price to spike.

Salesforce co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff didn’t mince words on his latest purchase. “This is a match made in heaven. Together, Salesforce and Slack will shape the future of enterprise software and transform the way everyone works in the all-digital, work-from-anywhere world,” Benioff said in a statement.

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield was no less effusive than his future boss. “As software plays a more and more critical role in the performance of every organization, we share a vision of reduced complexity, increased power and flexibility, and ultimately a greater degree of alignment and organizational agility. Personally, I believe this is the most strategic combination in the history of software, and I can’t wait to get going,” Butterfield said in a statement.

Every worker at every company needs to communicate, something that Slack can ably empower. What’s more, it also facilitates external communication with customers and partners, something that should be quite useful for a company like Salesforce and its family of offerings.

Ultimately, Slack was ripe for the taking. Entering 2020 it had lost around 40% of its value since it went public. Consider that after its most recent earnings report, the company lost 16% of its value, and before the Salesforce deal leaked, the company was worth only a few dollars per share more than its direct listing reference price. Toss in net losses of $147.6 million during the two quarters ending July 31, 2020, Slack’s uninspiring public valuation and its winding path to profitability and it was a sitting target for a takeover like this one. The only surprise here is the price.

The new deal also puts Salesforce more on par — and in competition — with its arch rival and sometime friend Microsoft, whose Teams product has been directly challenging Slack in the market. Microsoft, which passed on buying Slack in the past for a fraction of what Salesforce is paying today, has made Teams a key priority in recent quarters, loathe to cede any portion of the enterprise software market to another company.

What really has set Slack apart from the pack, at least initially, was its ability to integrate with other enterprise software. When you combined that with bots, those intelligent digital helpers, the company could potentially provide Salesforce customers with a central place to work without changing focus because everything they need to do can be done in Slack.

The company’s historic growth helped Slack raise over $1 billion while private, earning an impressive $7 billion valuation before going public last year. But while the Glitch-to-unicorn story appears simple, Slack has always faced entrenched competition from the likes of not only Microsoft, but also Cisco, Facebook, Google and even Asana and Monday.com.

Today’s deal comes after Salesforce’s purchase of Quip in 2016 for $750 million. Quip brought a way of socially sharing documents to the SaaS giant, and when paired with the Slack acquisition gives Salesforce a much more robust social story to tell than its internal option Chatter, an early attempt at enterprise social that never really caught on.

It’s worth noting that Salesforce was interested in Twitter in 2016, the same year that Microsoft was reportedly interested in Slack, but eventually walked away from that deal when shareholders objected, not wanting to deal with the controversial side of the social platform.

Slack was founded in 2013, but its origins go back to an online multiplayer game company called Glitch that was founded in 2009. While the game was ultimately a failure, the startup developed an internal messaging system in the process of building that company that later evolved into Slack.

For Slack, the path to the public markets was fraught with hype and outsized expectation. The company was famous, or as famous as an enterprise software company can be. At the time it felt like the its debut was the start of a long tenure as an indie company. Instead, that public life has been cut short by a huge check. Such is the dog-eat-dog world of tech.

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