October 5, 2007

947 words 5 mins read

My Wish: Universal Battery Charging

This topic may sound a little strange. “Universal Battery Charging”, after all, they do have chargers that will re-charge everything from AAA to D cell batteries. I’m thinking bigger though. I’m thinking electronics, and… well… everything. I want to be able to have one base station to be able to charge EVERYTHING. I’m tired of having a box of just wall warts and other miscellaneous chargers. I’m tired of having to buy new chargers or devices because a charger is lost. I’m also tired of “Standard” charging methods being bastardized. Let me explain a little…

This all stems from the fact that I’m a techy. I’ve got tons of little electronic devices. Each one of them have their own charger. I’ve got a charger for my iPods, one for my XBox remotes, one for my D70 camera, one for my phones, one for my Surefire L7 flashlight and one for each of my laptops. Of course, thats just a scratch on the surface. Yes, every electronic that requires being plugged in has its own adapter, but I’m not really concerned with powering my IP Phone or my Xbox because they are ALWAYS plugged in. Chargers come and go, sometimes they aren’t needed for months at a time. During that time is when the charger inevitably disappears, or stops working. For alot of these devices, its a Pain In The Ass(tm) to get a new charger. Some companies simply don’t sell the chargers, for a multiplicity of reasons. So when you have a battery operated device, with a dead battery and no charger, it becomes a brick.

My mother is starting to have problems with chargers. She has an ipod, a digital camera, etc. She is by no mean a “techy” (She calls me to tell me “box is broken” — and is thinks her monitor is “the box”), but even she has this problem. I don’t know about other people, but I’m sure there are many other techies that have this problem to extreme degrees. I personally have only one outlet thats available for “rotation” because I have so many constant use electronics. Next to this plug I have a desk with (currently) about half a dozen different chargers. As each device dies, I have to uncoil is charger, and plug it. I just pray that I don’t have to charge several things at once.

I’d really love to see some form of Universal charging. It doesn’t have to be “perfect”, but take a look at USB. So many devices can charge off of USB, and it definitely wasn’t designed for that originally. Why can’t someone come up with something small that can be nearly universal. Don’t tell me we don’t have the technology to but small chips into devices to instruct the charge as to what rate to charge with, and do it cheaply. This is along the same way we use USB, a few people screw with us and make proprietary connectors for USB connections (I’m looking at you Apple, and your damned iPod plug), but most everyone is using it — and its the de facto standard. DO IT WITH POWER. ELECTRICITY RUNS OUR WORLDS AFTER ALL!!!

My biggest problem with the concept of Universal charging is when devices “break” a standard. Lets take my two cell phones for example (yes, I carry two cell phones — no, I’m not dealing drugs — one is personal, one is work). I have a Moto RAZR and an 8125 (Smart phone thing). Both of these phones use standard Mini-USB plugs, so we’re all good, right? Wrong! The 8125 doesn’t follow the standard 500mAh that USB provides. It “uses” 1A chargers. Now, I can charge it off standard USB connections, or my RAZR charger for example. But… there is some sort of built in safety mechanism that if the battery gets too low (below 10% I think), the 8125 refuses to charge with anything less than 1A. The only “proper” charger I have for it is in my car, so if I let it go down too low I have to charge it for 20mn in my car, then I can resume using the standard wall charge. On the same line — the RAZR realizes that its getting too much Amperage from the car charger — and therefor refuses to charge at all off of it.

The closest there seems to be currently to “Universal Charging” is actually the push towards wireless charging. One of the companies I heard about a long while back is called WildCharge. It seemed cool, they were/are going to provide wireless charging for Nano’s and RAZR’s — great — I have one of each. Sadly, their site has read “Coming Soon” for many months now, I dont think they are ever actually releasing a product. Another company in the area is called Splashpower, but all they seem to do is technology — rather than a product. If both of these companies can make their product charge multiple devices without wires, why can’t someone do it with wires? Oh well. I will say this much, I did read a while back that basically all of the big cell phone manufacturers (including Nokia !) were going to standardize and use MicroUSB. Granted I thought Mini USB was good enough, but as long as everyone picks SOMETHING and sticks to it — I’m happy.

Here’s the reader questions of the day. How many devices have had that were disabled (temporarily or permanently) because you couldn’t find the proper charger? How many times have you had to buy new chargers for battery powered devices? How many different chargers do you have around your house/desk right now?