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Batteries

Smartphone chargers just got a powerful upgrade

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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This is NOT a sponsored post.

Anker Atom PD-1

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At first glance, the Anker PD-1 may seem unremarkably normal looking. After all, it looks like the small wall charger that came included with your iPhone. It is almost the same size as that iPhone charger, but it delivers a full 30 watts of USBC power (it’s 35-40% smaller than the equivalent MacBook charger).

Ravpower 45W PD Charger

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Ravpower have taken the same technology to greater heights by designing a slim (14mm) 45 watt USBC charger .

Tell me how this is possible

The go to foundation for many electronic components is silicon. Silicon is in everything from computer processors to chargers, but we needed something better to improve charging speed and efficiency.

This is where gallium nitride (GaN) is making an entrance.

  • GaN has a theoretical ability to conduct electricity 1000x more quickly than traditional silicon.

  • GaN also doesn’t get as hot as silicon which means the electricity, not being lost to heat, is used to charge your device faster. It also means we can save 15-20% of worldwide power consumption if all electronic devices switched to GaN.

  • Since GaN chargers are smaller, they require less material, less packaging and are therefore cheaper to ship.

Why Anker and Ravpower?

What makes the Anker and Ravpower so remarkable is that they are the first major brands to release GaN-based chargers. These are first-generation products so we can expect much power powerful GaN chargers in the future, at a much lower price. Anker and Ravpower are charging a premium for these smaller and lighter devices. As the technology becomes more widely available, expect prices to drop dramatically.

Other uses

2019 should be the year where GaN chargers become commonplace. An optimized iPhone and a GaN charger could charge your device 6x faster than today, in a package the same size.

Like many of you, I travel a lot, and a battery backup is critical. Charging a traditional 9000 mAh battery can take 3-5 hours. I recently started testing the Apollo Pro from Elecjet which is a graphene-infused battery that is capable of fully charging in 20 minutes with a 60W USBC charger. Being able to charge your backup battery while you enjoy a coffee is incredibly freeing. Now imagine what will happen when smartphone manufacturers adopt faster charging graphene batteries paired with faster charging GaN chargers. It will be an unbeatable combo.

We likely won’t see any major brands adopting these two techs for their 2019 models, but I am willing to bet you will see a bunch in 2020, probably starting with the Samsung Galaxy S11.

Energizer offers recycled high capacity batteries

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

Energizer has release a new line of "Eco" branded alkaline batteries that contain 4% recycled material. While speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Michelle Atkinson, the Chief Marketing Officer admitted that there is a problem related to recyclers not processing alkaline batteries right now. Energizer hopes that by creating economic value for this recycling, they can jump start this new line of business for recyclers. 

Why aren't alkaline batteries being recycled today 

Companies stopped using mercury in the mid 90s therefore most jurisdictions allow consumers to simply discard them with their normal household trash. Sure there is some steel (top and bottom covers) but this is so small the recovery cost would outweigh any sale receipts. 

Energizer Eco Advanced only contains 4% recycled material

My first reaction when I learned about this battery was "Only 4% recycled material hardly seems like a breakthrough". Energizer has said it wants to continue research to increase the proportion slowly over time (reaching  40% by 2025). 

On a positive note, Energizer claims this is their highest performing alkaline battery to date, which is definitely a good thing. There is a very slight price premium per pack for these Eco batteries compared to their regular products. 

Conclusion

Recycling is a fantastic exercise and anything that allows us to reduce our use of natural resources is definitely commendable. The reality is that these batteries only contain 4% recycle material which is nice but not earth shattering. 

Plus it is important to keep in mind that many store brand batteries cost much less and perform almost as well as the name brands. So Energizer is hoping the Eco budget will appeal to an environmentally conscious crowd that is less cost conscious (aka willing to spend more to feel good about themselves).

The major breakthrough will be when they finally get over 40% recycled.

Related Articles:

Joos Orange Solar Charger Review

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

I love gadgets related to camping or survival. Over the summer, I had the opportunity to test various solar chargers in real world situations and after all the testing was done, the Joos Orange won a special place in my heart.

The Joos Orange is a big heavy plastic box with a solar panel on it. Unlike all of the other major solar chargers I tested, it was the only one that is completely self contained (battery, circuitry and solar panel), waterproof and can be locked to a tree, table or other immovable item. 

Although its WATT rating was low (considering its weight), its solar cell is extremely efficient and it performed superbly well in all weather conditions.

It's the power dummy

The best place to start the review is with its power performance. I compared the Joos Orange to the SolarMonkey adventurer, Instapark Mercury and the Goal Zero. The Orange Joos charged my tablets (ipad and Nexus 7) or smarpthone (Note 3 or iPhone 5s) as fast or faster than its competitors. 

The built in angle legs held position the Orange Joos in the optimal position to catch the sun's rays.


These legs are a small touch that made a big difference in the field. Plus it was the only charger I tested that had these angle legs. 

The device comes with a 5400mAH built in battery that is large enough to partially charge an iPad or to fully charge an iPhone twice. You can pre-charge the battery before leaving which means the solar panel only has to top off the battery as you use it.

If you have a laptop, they offer a little app (MAC or Windows) that allows you to monitor the efficiency of the solar panels and the battery power level.

In field use

Here comes one of my biggest annoyances with the device, you have to use their USB cables. Why oh why.... Since the iPhone 5s lightning connector was not included in my kit, I used their Joos-to-USB connector plugged into my Apple cable. You can buy the lightning adaptor from them for $10 plus S&H. This one design flaw kept annoying me every time I wanted to charge a device. When you buy the kit, it comes with the basic Apple 30-pin connector, micro USB and standard USB connectors all stored in a weird waterproof zip up bag. 

The next version of the Joos Orange should have a standard USB connection. I can't stress that enough. There was one instance where I took the Orange Joos but forgot the proprietary connector at home so the kit was useless. 

Once I got over the above issue, every thing else was wonderful. I had a chance to test it in all kinds of weather conditions from direct bright sunlight to all day overcast with rain. In every situation, the little charging light was blinking. Since none of its competitors were waterproof, I was hesitant to leave them out when rain was possible. Plus the Orange Joos seemed to charge faster in every condition. In bright summer sunlight, I charged the battery from completely dead to full in about 9.25 hours. 

When you add the reflectors (sold separately), they cut charing time by about 35-40%. Which made the great charging time of the Orange Joos even better. Having installed and removed the reflectors about 60-80 times since this summer, you can see a little wear around the screw insertion spots. This won't impact performance but the charger will outlive the cheaper plastic reflectors for sure.

The large hole at the top of the charger was great for attaching to the outside back of my backpack while hiking. Other times I use to leave it at the camp site to charge in the sun and use to lock it to a large wooden picnic table to prevent theft. Nice design touch. 

I read over a hundred reviews on various internet sites and a complaint that kept coming up is related to the connector. A small percentage of users complained that after several months of use, the connector would become unreliable and you would have to fiddle with it to "make" the connection. After my months of in field testing, I didn't encounter this issue but wanted to make sure you were aware of it. I emailed some questions to their support team and always received prompt courteous responses. If your device does encounter this connector issue just contact them.

Q&A with the company

During my tests, I had some questions for Solar Joos and thought you may benefit from the answers so here it is.

Q1 - What drove the creation of SolarJoos and the Orange?

"The technology was originally created for commercial phone charging stations(before my time here), but ran into some complications so the founders decided to create a consumer product since there is such a large and growing market for portable power.  Since we have the best solar technology it made sense to try to create a consumer product for portable power, we came up with the JOOS Orange." - Dan Trautman

Q2 - What differentiates you from the other major solar player

"What separates us from Goal Zero and everyone else is our patented technology that allows us to use one complete solar cell(as opposed to cutting multiple cells into strips and wiring them together in a series).  It is an internal component that takes the 2.6W from the solar cell and 'saves' up enough to output at 5W into the battery so USB devices can charge from the battery.  Our competitors have to have enough solar cell strips to equal 5W which is why ours is a much smaller form factor.  If half of their solar mat gets covered in shade charging will stop.  You can cover 95% of our cell with shade and it will still collect some power from the sun as opposed to not working at all.  This is how the JOOS is able to charge in low light(real-world) conditions.  Also, the JOOS Orange has an internal battery that the solar cell charges and then the battery charges your device as opposed to having to have the solar cell and device in the sun simultaneously.  The sun doesn't have to be out for the JOOS to charge a device if there is power in the battery.  We also have a patent on our social media idea for people to be able upload their solar collecting data and compare with other JOOS customers, it will be a much better version of our dashboard diagnostic software."  - Dan Trautman

Q3 - What are the 2-3 most striking use cases you know for your product?

" Last year, the JOOS became a pretty popular device for helping keep families connected when hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of the US.  The JOOS has also helped mountaineers summit Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Denali, and many other mountains.  We also have many customers in the Peace Corps that use it to stay connected while in remote parts of the planet.  We've also donated a few units to a US based project that helps bring tablets to schools in remote villages in Africa. the JOOS is their power source." - Dan Trautman

Q4 - How much is a replacement battery?

Replacement batteries are $29.99 and should last 200-300 cycles (about 1 year).

Q5 - Are there any other products in development?

"Yes, many new and exciting things are in the works.  We'll have a larger unit for better tablet charging and laptop charging.  Plus a smaller version(1 smart phone charge) that will be much more portable geared toward everyday usage and travel." - Dan Trautman

Conclusion

I really liked the Orange Joos Solar charger because it is self-contained (battery plus solar charger), water proof, charged extremely well in all types of weather and durable. If these are qualities you are searching for then buy the Orange Joos and I promise you won't be disappointed. 

If however you don't care about your solar panel being self contained. If you don't need a water proof solar charging solution. If you aren't concerned about maximizing charging in various weather conditions. If you need something lightweight then you may want to look at some of the other solar charing kits (like the InstaPark Mercury 10 - link - combined with an external battery). 

I'm excited to see what Solar Joos does with future products. 

A battery that can jumpstart your car or power your smartphone

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

I love portable battery packs because they make travel a lot more enjoyable allowing me to watch movies or listen to music much much longer than the devices built in battery. But these batteries are designed for smartphones or tablets and typically provide 1 or 2.1 amps of juice.

Now Cobra has the JumPack which can deliver 400 amps of car starting power and can also power your smartphone or tablet with its 7500mAh built in battery (through its USB port).

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you can charge the JumPack with the (included) AC power adapter or the (included) 12V cigarette lighter adapter.

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It's currently selling for $US109.81 on Amazon US (link) or $CAD121.90 on Amazon Canada (link).

I think its a great price for something so versatile.

Charge a smartphone in 30 seconds

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

WSJ (link) is reporting that a company called StoreDot has developed a biological battery that can be charged in 30 seconds. The technology comes from the nanotechnology department of the university of Tel Aviv.

Fast chargers are nothing new but they are typically too big to be considered portable. StoreDot's technology is relative portable and can be adapted for use by almost any cellphone. The other benefit is cost. The company expects its technology to only cost twice the market price of a normal everyday charger. 

As exciting as all of this is, you can put your credit card away. The company doesn't expect to commercialize the product until 2016. 

This is one of the most exciting technologies I have seen in a while and I really hope they stay independent and built this for many smartphones (and not get snapped up by Apple or Samsung).