More POWER! Parts 1 and 2

More POWER! Part 1

More POWER! Part 2


More POWER! Part 1

December 15, 2022

Last week we finished VPNs. I hope you got some good ideas and are protecting your Internet connection from snoopers.

This week and next week we’ll discuss power – methods you can use to charge your devices and what some of the standards mean.

First, though, I plan to take 2 weeks off so this column and part 2 coming out next week will be my last columns for the year. I’ll be back, though, after the first of January with a column for Thursday, January 12.

OK, on to this week’s topic. Charging is pretty simple, right? Plug your charger into a wall and plug your phone into it. Well, sure, that’s easy. But what if you’re away from a wall outlet and need to recharge your phone? Maybe your phone can “charge quickly.” What does that mean and how can you take advantage of fast charging?

If you’re away from home you can charge in your car. If you have a newer car you might have a USB port which you can use for charging. Or your car might have a wireless charging pad somewhere in it. But if you don’t have either of those, don’t fret! You can get an adapter for your “cigarette lighter” and plug into that. Here’s an example from a company I often use https://www.amazon.com/Anker-Charger-PowerDrive-Adapter-iPhone/dp/B07PGT7LSR. Note that this particular charger has 2 USB A ports. Some might be confused with all the types of connectors floating around so let’s dig into connectors before we go deeper into power.

There are many different USB connector types but for our purposes we’re only going to deal with USB A and USB C as they are the two main ones in use today (lightning connectors have been popular with Apple devices but even Apple is moving to USB C with their recent products). https://www.tomsguide.com/news/usb-c-vs-usb-a has some pictures and a good overview of the two connector types along with some detail about some USB C standards like Thunderbolt 3 and 4 as well as some USB generations like USB 3.1. When it comes to charging, though, all you really need to do is make sure you get a cable with the right connectors. If you do that, you can charge your device.

If you want to charge more quickly you need to know about some different charging standards. While there are many different proprietary fast charge technologies (see https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/how-does-fast-charging-work/), there are 2 main quick charge types: Quick Charge from Qualcomm (https://www.qualcomm.com/products/features/quick-charge) and Power Delivery (good detailed info at https://www.androidauthority.com/usb-power-delivery-806266/). Device chargers may implement none, one, or both standards. If your device supports either of those standards and you’ve got the right cable, your device will charge faster. But your device will charge even if it supports neither – it will just charge more slowly.

Qualcomm’s Quick Charge has evolved over time and they’ve numbered each generation. They’re currently up to Quick Charge 5. None of the versions require a special cable to achieve faster charging but the charger and your device have to support Quick Charge. Each new generation is compatible with all previous generations so if your device has Quick Charge 3 and your charger has Quick Charge 5 it will work fine, adhering to the Quick Charge 3 standard. See https://www.qualcomm.com/products/features/quick-charge/faq for some answers to commonly asked questions.

Power Delivery has also evolved over time and they have numbered those generations as well with the current generation Power Delivery 3 (or PD 3). Power Delivery requires a special cable to achieve faster charging and the current generation requires a USB C connector on both ends of the cable. Of course, both the charger and the device must support Power Delivery and it’s “adaptive” meaning that the two ends work together and they adapt to each other to give you the fastest charging both ends AND THE CABLE support. There are many particulars that you need to pay attention to in order to get the absolute fastest charging. If you’re really interested in all the details, read https://www.androidauthority.com/usb-power-delivery-806266/.

If you want to cut out all the hype and just find the best cable for your needs, take a look at https://www.androidauthority.com/fastest-charging-cables-793649/

That’s charging and power for this week! Next week we’ll cover chargers and power banks (batteries you can use to recharge your phone). I hope it’s all been clear – if you have questions or need clarification, please don’t hesitate to contact me. And, as always, let me know if you have any topics you’d like me to cover.

As always, my intent with these columns is to spark your curiosity, give you enough information to get started, and arm you with the necessary keywords (or buzzwords) so you’ll understand the basics and are equipped to search for more detailed information.

Please feel free to email me with questions, comments, suggestions, requests for future columns, whatever at tony@TonysTakeOnTech.com or just drop me a quick note and say HI! And don’t forget that I maintain links to the original columns with live, clickable links to all the references at https://go.ttot.link/TGColumns+Links or https://go.ttot.link/TGC+L – it should be updated shortly after this column appears online.


More POWER! Part 2

December 22, 2022

Last week we started discussing device charging by looking at some standards and the connectors used in current charging methods. This week we’ll discuss charging blocks/adapters and power banks (which are really just batteries that you can connect to a device to recharge it).

As a reminder, this is my last column for 2 weeks. While it may not seem like it, researching and writing these columns takes a fair bit of time so I’m just taking a little time off from all that. I’ll be back after the first of January with a column for Thursday, January 12.

The battery in your device is rated in milliamp-hours, abbreviated mAh, and is essentially the size of the “fuel tank” for your device. A higher number indicates a larger battery or fuel tank which means that your device can go longer before it needs to be recharged (see https://www.ubergizmo.com/what-is/mah-milliamp-hours/ for more detail). To recharge it you have several options.

Some device support wireless charging – you don’t “plug it in” but, instead, set it on a wireless charging pad (no, we didn’t discuss those last week) – pretty much any wireless charger will work with any device that supports wireless charging. Apple recently introduced MagSafe. To clear up any confusion, MagSafe isn’t a charging standard but, rather, a series of magnets on the back of the phone case that will cause your phone to attach to a charger equipped with compatible magnets. The “MagSafe’ part isn’t the charger, it’s the magnets. Pretty much ANY phone that supports wireless charging will work with any wireless charger, MagSafe or not. The article at https://www.wired.com/story/android-magsafe-pixel-samsung-peak-design-everyday-case/ does a good job of discussing MagSafe and how you can take advantage of the magnets on a phone that supports wireless charging but doesn’t have the MagSafe magnets.

Wireless charging is relatively inefficient in that some energy is lost to heat as well as some inherent loss due to how power is conveyed to your device. A more efficient (and more traditional) way to recharge is just to “plug it in.” Charging stations can be really simple with one port which will let you charge one device to multi-port charging stations that support both Power Delivery and Quick Charge and they can plug into a wall outlet or into your cigarette lighter in your vehicle. Because of the way power works, charging stations and power adapters are rated in watts (abbreviated W). If we continue the fuel tank analogy, watts can be thought of as being a measure of how quickly the “fuel” is loaded into the “fuel tank.” Your phone might support 18W or 25W fast charging which means it will charge MUCH faster than a standard phone. How much faster? Your phone’s manufacturer will tell you that. But your power station/charger must support passing energy to your phone at that rate. Power Delivery (PD) chargers quote the rates at which it can supply power. A PD charger, when paired with the right cable, can negotiate with your phone and cable to send as much power as your phone and cable can support, within the bounds of what the charger can provide. And, while all of this is interesting, a simple charger will charge your device quite well. Maybe not as fast but certainly without all the hullabaloo and machinations you need to go through to figure out how to get the absolute fastest charging possible.

OK, so after all that you might ask what should I buy? Here’s a list of various types of wall chargers from The Wirecutter https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-multiport-usb-wall-charger/ and here’s their list of car chargers https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-usb-car-charger/.

A power bank, being just a battery, has the same measure of capacity as your phone. If your phone has a 5,000mAh battery (which you can find on the box or from the vendor from whom you bought it) and your power bank is 20,000mAh it can recharge your totally dead phone about 4 times before the battery in the power bank is exhausted (I say “about” because some of those mAh are lost during the charge process).

Power banks follow the same standards we discussed last week – some may have Quick Charge or Power Delivery, or both, or neither. Some have wireless charging and some even have a digital readout that tells you how much “fuel” is left in its “tank”. Like charging stations, if you want to get the absolute fastest charging from your power bank it needs to be matched to your cable’s and your phone’s capabilities. But if you just want it to recharge your device pretty much any power bank will do. Just make sure it’s from a reputable manufacturer or it has favorable reviews from a reputable source.

Last point to cover: at some point you’ll need to recharge your power bank. It can take a long while to recharge a sizable one of, say, 10,000 or 20,000mAh. In addition to their output specifications which we have been discussing, power banks have input specifications and they tend to match the output specifications. In other words, if your power bank doesn’t support Quick Charge or Power Delivery to charge your devices, it will likely not support either of those to recharge the power bank so it could take 3, 4, 5 or more hours to recharge. While you may not need to charge your device quickly, you may want to more quickly recharge your power bank, Keep that in mind when making your purchase decisions.

I’ve reviewed a number of “best” lists but I couldn’t come up with 2 or 3 good, representative lists – each publisher has their own criteria for their ratings so I’ll give you a couple of brand names that I have come to trust. I have a number of products from each of them which I have purchased and had good experiences. They are Anker and UGREEN. Certainly they are not the only ones that are good and reliable but they are 2 brands I like and I can get quickly from Amazon. By all means, do your own research and choose based on your own needs.

That’s charging and power! Let me know if you have any topics you’d like me to cover.

As always, my intent with these columns is to spark your curiosity, give you enough information to get started, and arm you with the necessary keywords (or buzzwords) so you’ll understand the basics and are equipped to search for more detailed information.

Please feel free to email me with questions, comments, suggestions, requests for future columns, whatever at tony@TonysTakeOnTech.com or just drop me a quick note and say HI! And don’t forget that I maintain links to the original columns with live, clickable links to all the references at https://go.ttot.link/TGColumns+Links or https://go.ttot.link/TGC+L – it should be updated shortly after this column appears online.