September 29, 2020

Wireless charging, environmental disaster? Plus more tech news today

Wireless charging's alarming inefficiencies contribute towards higher energy demands, plus more tech news today!

Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Tuesday, 11 August 2020.

1. The wireless charging conundrum

There’s been a little bit of a stir around wireless charging recently. OneZero, in a collab with iFixit, kicked things off with a piece looking at exactly how inefficient wireless chargers are.

And it’s a problem:

  • “In my tests, I found that wireless charging used, on average, around 47% more power than a cable,â€� notes the author Eric Ravenscraft.
  • More detail: “Charging the phone from completely dead to 100% using a cable took an average of 14.26 watt-hours (Wh). Using a wireless charger took, on average, 21.01 Wh. That comes out to slightly more than 47% more energy for the convenience of not plugging in a cable. In other words, the phone had to work harder, generate more heat, and suck up more energy when wirelessly charging to fill the same size battery.â€�
  • Even misaligning the changing coils just slightly would cause more losses.
  • Worse, when the wireless charger wasn’t being used, it’d still draw very small amounts of power, but that’s waste.
  • Given the annual cost of charging your phone is under a dollar (ZDNet), adding 50% more to the bill isn’t a personal problem. But on a global scale, where billions use a phone every day, that power demand does cause additional capacity problems from the grid.
  • Ravenscraft takes things to the limit, explaining if we all switched to wireless charging, we’d need more power plants. The math is very rough, but in a general sense, we’d need more megawatts.
  • Here’s some good background on how wireless charging works, too.

So, what does it all mean?

  • Not everyone is going to switch to wireless charging, unless the industry transitions more towards phones without ports, as has been kicked around for a few years.
  • Wired charging is still the way to go for fast, efficient charging.
  • And actually, the very best way to charge your phone efficiently and cheaply is slowly, with a cable, plugged into the wall. It’ll also help extend your battery life.
  • It’s possible this problem may be vastly diminished by wireless charging designs that can cut down on losses.
  • High-power, high-efficiency chargers already exist, like this system for charging electric vehicles at 120kW and 97% efficiency, while in smartphone land, Oppo promises a special new wireless charger at 98% conversion efficiency — untested at the Android Authority labs, as yet.
  • But the problem is the market. A cheap, less efficient wireless charger for $16 against a much more efficient design for $160 is a no brainer as to which will sell, given the running costs of the low-quality option amount to paying just a few more cents a year
  • In any case, you’re best not to just throw away your wireless chargers. But what we should hope for is that the industry doesn’t shift further towards wireless charging while the benefits are small, and the wider implications significant.

2. We asked, you told us: It was close, but the Pixel 4a camera still trounced the iPhone SE (Android Authority).


3. Weird option lets you access Xiaomi’s in-display fingerprint camera (Android Authority).


4. You can beta test Microsoft Xbox xCloud today! August 11, for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate only, and you’ll need an Android phone as Apple continues to wall off the Xbox (Android Authority). On that note: Apple goes to war with the gaming industry (TechCrunch).


5. E Ink demos a folding e-reader that can also take notes (The Verge).


6. Apple’s upcoming 5nm A14 Bionic chipset will apparently set new performance standards (notebookcheck.net).


7. Tim Cook is now a billionaire, but not the Jeff Bezos founder kind: it’s rare for any non-founder CEO to hit a billion, but this is Apple (The Verge).


8. Nvidia teases August 31st event countdown ahead of rumored RTX 3080 Ampere GPUs (The Verge).


9. After three years, Google reintroduces Google Maps for Apple Watch across the coming weeks (Ars Technica).


10. More wireless spectrum unleashed for 5G: The White House announces a plan to speed up the rollout of 5G, by opening up to auction 100 MHz of mid-band spectrum, previously allocated to the military (Wired).


11. First drive: The new 2021 Polestar 2 has a great cabin—and deep Android integration (Ars Technica).


12. Greed may be good when it comes to solar power: Researchers find focusing on finances gets more people to install solar power, because based on economics, more people should have solar panels (Ars Technica).


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