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DRM for chargers? Google Pixel 3 locks fast Qi charging to its own stand (arstechnica.com)
274 points by extraterra 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 175 comments

The explanation of “This is to protect batteries from sub par quality chargers” is not particularly convincing to me. As a user, wouldn’t that be my call? Shouldn’t providing a safe charging be a charger manufacturer’s responsibility? Why is Pixel deciding to not accept charging at 10w from ‘unknown’ charging device? At best I can see the argument for not supporting charging from insecurely designed charger on the account of warranty, but even then I think it should be consumers call as to what device they are using to charge their phones and phone should at most warn me about unsafe chargers, rather than outright refusing to charge at full potential speed.

Shouldn’t providing a safe charging be a charger manufacturer’s responsibility?

Have you seen the manufacturing quality of some of the chargers out there? I wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't an effort by Google to prevent a long series of "Google phones explode into flames!" clickbait headlines when ultra-cheap knock-off charging pads start showing up at flea markets.

This is pure FUD. I don't know how you think wireless charging works, but it doesn't send current directly into the battery. The charge is received by an antenna in the phone, and the same protections that protect it from overcharging when you plug it into an outlet apply to wireless charging too. You just replaced a cord with the antenna.

If you can damage the phone that way, then the phone is defective.

That's not how standards work. If a cable or charging block is out-of-spec it can easily pose HW damage risks or fire hazards. It's impossible to consider every possible way this stuff can be broken.

Take for example https://gizmodo.com/a-google-engineer-is-publicly-shaming-cr...

OnePlus USB-C cables work fine with OnePlus devices but can damage any other USB-C device.

Another example where a USB-C cable destroyed his USB PD analyzer & his chromebook ports: https://www.amazon.com/review/R2XDBFUD9CTN2R

This was because the cable was completely miswired.

There's also numerous reports out there of how crappy charging blocks are fire hazards if driven at the full level they advertise.


It's not totally unreasonable for a responsible manufacturer to either outright ban charging from unknown blocks/cables or to fallback to a trickle charge that disabled the highest-speed charging.

Since there's so many the only way to do this is to maintain a whitelist of good chargers at the expense of fast charge not working with an arbitrary number of chargers. You could think "well, just warn the user & give them a choice." However, the majority of users would just learn that most of the time it's OK & just hit "OK" blindly even when connecting to new chargers they don't know about. Also the news reporting would still be the same & wouldn't capture the nuance of using a third-party charger since news cycles are more instant & don't allow the necessary amount of time for engineers to receive the unit & perform diagnostics to figure out what happened.


That's exactly what I thought of when reading the GP. There is some absolute garbage out there being sold.

There are also manufacturers using the existence of such garbage as a scapegoat.

For instance, the fitbit ionic battery plague is caused by shorted MLCCs -- but they still try to blame it on 3rd party chargers every time they get an RMA.

That’s why circuit designers almost always create charging and power circuits with over voltage and current protections into fragile electronics. Certainly on a system as fragile and complex as a cell phone. This isn’t an excuse, this is bucking trends of circuit design that has existed for decades. And it’s even easier to prevent in wireless transmissions than physical ones because wireless requires careful tuning of resonance to work efficiently. The circuit to prevent this would be simpler than this handshaking one to detect “ok” chargers.

> Another example where a USB-C cable destroyed his USB PD analyzer & his chromebook ports

That sounds to me more like a shitty design on both of those.

Short of sending hundreds of volts and causing arcing, this should be preventable, should it not?

That cable supplied voltage on the ground line. Quite some WTF factor on that, but also difficult to protect against.

You can protect against reverse voltage, ie, voltage from the ground line.

A simple diode is the easiest way, using various power MOSFETs can reduce the voltage drop induced and you can even build a circuit that allows charging the battery and supplying power on the same connectors while also protecting against reverse voltage.

It's neither hard nor expensive.


Are you saying that it's possible to protect against all kinds of shenanigans on the ground line even if the device has no other ground, or only against negative voltage?

There is only reverse voltage and over voltage.

Ground is basically your reference, if your ground has potential above your voltage input, you're in reverse voltage, if your ground is too far below your voltage input, then you're in over voltage.

Both can be detected and prevented from causing damage via various means on both sides of the usb plug.

Overvoltage can usually be solved by having a Zener diode within acceptable overvoltage short the thing to ground and blow out a fuse, this will cut the circuit and prevent further damage.

I recommend this video from GreatScott: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Tk5ghH_U2s

Non-shitty devices will behave well, but shitty ones won't. That's the problem.

Some devices will break when you draw advertised levels of power. That's just a fact of life, and isn't something you should try to fix with DRM. It's not a very common thing.

It also doesn't damage the device itself.

The backwards cable is worth noting but not relevant to a system that's fundamentally AC.

Outside of some kind of massive EMP, nothing a wireless charger does should be able to hurt your battery.

If I were being generous, I'd say that there are parts of the charging process (variations in charge, temperature, etc) that the hardware can't monitor, but have to be kept in certain ranges to maintain good lifetime/safety for the battery. So, instead of adding the sensors, they're restricting the charging devices. I can imagine that wireless charging is a bit complicated (see apple's problems) and it's easy for other vendors to get it quite wrong.

If that were the case, I think that they should include the stand with the phone.

Otherwise I think it's a bitter-tasting money grab.

All Qi chargers already have a temperature sensor in them and any modern phone has many temperature sensors (MEMS sensors, SMPS, lipo battery charger). The Qi receiver already communicates back to the transmitter and can tell it to increase or decrease power. Having the Pixel 3 decrease charging rate if it noticed heating up would be trivial.

You're forgetting the problem of the charging stand being implemented incorrectly & catching fire. Phone sensors won't help you there & while you may think all Qi chargers would have a temperature sensor in them, the fact that something simpler like knock-off USB charging blocks cause fire hazards leads me to not be so bullish on the Qi front.

And hey, look.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEGlmQS692w https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxstYrJQkk8

I'm sure you can find more examples. Just because we'd like the world to work a certain way doesn't mean it actually does in practice & the job of engineers sometimes is to deal with the reality of the world.

The issues you raise aren't solved by limiting transmit power - they are only solved by actually using Qi standard chargers. If you are using a faulty transmitter it can catch fire at 5W or 10W.

The Qi standard as of 1.1 has the receiver communicate back to the transmitter the amount of power it has received. The transmitter then calculates transmit efficiency based on the amount of power it is outputting. If the efficiency is too low the transmitter will fault with the assumption that it could be heating up a foreign object.

>Otherwise I think it's a bitter-tasting money grab.

It's engineering laziness. Designing a phone robust against bad chargers is harder than designing a phone to work with one charger and putting DRM on it. It's the kind of thing markets can't do very much to solve which requires regulation, unfortunately, because there are too many bad actors.

If you assume faulty charger, you have to figure out a way of dropping at least 5 extra watts of heat somewhere in your phone. That seems practically impossible without significantly compromising on mechanical properties of your device.

i get that this is theoretically inconvenient for you, but how big of a problem is this really? afaik, most people don't wirelessly charge their phones, even if they have capable devices, and the pixel line tends to be pretty low volume to begin with.

given the small number of people that actually care and the possibly large cost of supporting full speed charging on a wider range of chargers, I'm not sure this is a problem at all, let alone one that merits new regulation.

From the Qi Wikipedia article:

> Rather than down-regulate the charging voltage in the device, Qi chargers meeting the A2 reference use a PID (proportional-integral-derivative) controller to modulate the delivered power according to the primary cell voltage.

So... a defective charger could plausibly damage the phone unless the phone contained a suitable protection circuit. Such a circuit could be quite simple - a transistor set up such that switching it would take the resonant receiver out of resonance would do the trick. The designer would need a bit of care to ensure that switching the transistor under wouldn’t fry it.

But IMO this design is a bit nutty. Phones already have voltage converters. Why not just use them?

When the flea market charging pad that the Google phone is laying on goes up in flames, Jenny Cheapskate isn't going to know if it was the pad that burned down her home, or the phone.

Your logic allows me to lock up all hardware in an Applesqe way and get praised for my altruism as I pocket hundreds of millions in extra peripheral sales.

The world has gotten this far with standards that allow equipment from different manufacturers to function together in a system. What a shame if marketing people and greed destroys that ecosystem.

Hundreds of millions from the sale of Pixel 3 Qi chargers seems wildly optimistic.

...now. How about in 5 years? Will we still be plugging the wires to our portable devices?


if you want fast charging, yes.

I certainly hope so.

That shit could still happen. They aren't preventing the chargers from working, just not working as well.

Actually in some cases you can. E.g. Gear S3 uses proprietary charger that is rated at 0.7A, 5V at the input. And several people reported watch raising overheat alarm when charging with select 3rd party chargers (not all). Apparently Samsung made it so the watch charges will really weak power, slowly and using powerful 3rd party chargers may push it out of the rated parameters. No permanent damage reported afaik.

Even old Nokia phones were able to test the maximum current drawable from the charger connected to their charging port, and adjust charging current accordingly. A cutting edge smartphone which cannot manage its battery charging process sounds a bit strange.

AFAIK Qi is a standard which can communicate too, so things look stranger...

For the uninitiated, Nokia phones had a feature called net-monitor which acted as a global debug console and had 60-something pages. One of these pages were battery and charging status and data.

What makes you think Google chargers are any better ?

I would be surprised if there wasn't a single factory providing the same chargers with different stickers for at least a dozen of brands, including Google.

Ken Shirriff's charger teardowns show that there can be vast differences in quality and safety between different brands: http://www.righto.com/2012/10/a-dozen-usb-chargers-in-lab-ap...

Also check out Lygte Info[1], the site of a Dane who checks chargers and batteries usually bought from the Chinese sites like Banggood and AliExpress. Spoiler: Not all of them are bad.

[1] https://lygte-info.dk/info/indexUSB%20UK.html

If you can see bad quality, then it's up to you to decide if it's worth to risk.

Not that I entirely find it convincing, but a reasonable counter-argument is the Samsung-airplane fire situation.

If a model/brand becomes known for catching on fire, that entire model/brand can be easily restricted from things like planes.

So bad chargers and replacement batteries are a potential threat to the reputation of a brand... that said, the problem with Samsung batteries catching on fire was all Samsung's fault.

The Samsung Airplane Fire was most certainly not related to a charger, that was due to the faulty battery. The Note 7 deserved that reputation.

A more reason comparison would be the Nintendo Switch and 3rd party docks. It turns out the Nintendo Switch does not implement USB-PD to spec, and a 3rd party dock fried the IC for the USB charger, bricking the device.

From what I've been told on here, Nintendo did implement USB-PD correctly, and correctly identified itself as a low-current device, but third-party devices ignore that and attempt to draw full amperage from the charger, which causes it to shut off.

Source: https://twitter.com/marcan42/status/845368239622307840

Nintendo most assuredly did not implement USB-PD correctly.

At a minimum, the Switch 1) enters the proprietary AltMode before even querying the attached charger/dock to see if it supports it 2) tries DR_SWAP even after the dock says that it doesn't have dual role capability 3) always requests 0.5A before requesting full amperage, causing problems with to-spec SRC_CAP readvertisements 4) does not properly use the CAP_MISMATCH flag required by the USB-PD spec, 5) the dock violates Power Rules compliance by not passing through the entire USB-PD advertisements from the attached charger, 6) the switch and dock both leave excess capacitance on Vbus, but the switch is a dual role power device, causing problems with safe and compliant hardware that correctly checks for 0V before swapping power, 7) far from being oversupplied by poor chargers, the switch hogs the entire 3.0A from the adapter when its maximum draw should be 2.6A 8) as noted in your twitter link, the switch PSU and dock hard-crash and require a power cycle to start working again, whereas correct, compliant behavior would be to negotiate a 5V/0.1A error signal, etc etc etc.

Source: https://plus.google.com/102612254593917101378/posts/2CUPZ5yV...

It's not the charger that has all the issues.

The reality is that bad chargers exist. It is wholly possible to build a phone that is resilient to a wide range of wrong input. If your phone breaks because of a substandard charger it's your phone's fault.

That was entirely Samsung's fault, made worse by the fact that Samsung didn't allow customers to change the batteries in its phones.

I agree. I find it a bit disturbing that people are sort of quick to defend this. I don't see this as being any different, other than scale, from what John Deere is doing.

> I think it should be consumers call as to what device they are using

If the sketchy charger bricks the phone but the customer is dishonest about using the sketchy charger at time of RMA, do you expect Google to engage in he-said-phone-said arguments with customers? "Ah but your big-brother device says it was plugged into a toaster oven last week."

If a sketchy charger can brick the phone, I'd consider the phone broken by design.

So did Google? Not trying to be trite here, but that's essentially exactly the point. They didn't want to let a sketchy charger brick the phone, so they disallowed sketchy chargers.

You could say that the phone should try to accept any charge and never break, but that's a nontrivial amount of electrical-engineering and expense involved in accepting basically any wattage/voltage that a sketchy charger may produce.

Not to mention that the sketchy charger can brick the phone now. The phone can just regulate its own power supply and charge however it likes, all the charger does is supply current to the coil.

Not to mention the potential liability if a crappy charger overcharges the battery and causes a fire in someone's pocket.

all of the battery charging control is in the battery, not the charger. The charger just generates the EM field (in this case) or a supply on traditional cables.

In a traditional wired charger, the transformer coils are in the charger. In case of wireless charging, one half of the coil is inside your phone. I am not an electrical engineer, but whatever current is induced there, you have to put it somewhere. So the argument makes some sense. Still not a nice move.

> whatever current is induced there, you have to put it somewhere.

No you don't. What is induced is an electromotive force, e.m.f., that is voltage. If the coil is open circuit then no current will flow. It's slightly more complicated than that because wireless charging uses tuned circuits not simple iron cored transformer but the general principal is the same and the control circuit in the phone can simply disconnect the coil completely in order to not accept any power.

A transformer is a two part system of two inductive coils. If you open the circuit on one end, the closed end won’t be able to induce a current into the second coil. It’s as simple as a single MOSFET controlled by some power management IC that measures current to prevent this from happening. It’s easier to prevent damage from wireless charging than it is from a physical connection.

> As a user, wouldn’t that be my call?

Maybe they're trying to keep their warranty repair costs in check. Maybe they would have allow it after your warranty expires and you're on the hook for the new battery instead of them.

>As a user, wouldn’t that be my call?

Sure. But it's the manufacturer's prerogative to build a device they want to build. Also this design decision is not to enforce copyright protection or is based on some other anti-consumer design, but rather is done for quality reasons - and that's a fair choice for them to make.

>Shouldn’t providing a safe charging be a charger manufacturer’s responsibility?

'safe' is ambiguous in this context. The charger may be 'safe' in that it won't catch fire and kill anybody, but may still prematurely cut your batteries life.

If your phone is under warranty, you'd potentially also need to opt in to the phone tracking how often you've used an unsafe charger. And for how long. And it would, reasonably, void the warranty.

A valid response is for consumers to say they don't want warranties any more. But if you do want a warranty, you need to use your device with approved devices...

Should be your call but laws open them up to liability so they don't allow you to just use anything you want. When something goes wrong, it'd be the phone that explodes and the HTC/Google part of the two companies has deeper pockets.

> Shouldn’t providing a safe charging be a charger manufacturer’s responsibility?

There is no such responsibility if they are overseas and shipping directly to the consumer.

> it should be consumers call

You should run that line of reasoning by your local fire marshal, and then also your insurance agent.

Maybe a reasonable workaround would be for Google to do the same thing Apple does for some of their products and sell licenses to third party manufacturers of repute.

Given the update, isn't it pretty clear that this article is nothing but FUD?

The general standard, Qi, only supports charging at 5W. Pixels support this standard perfectly.

Google also made an adapted standard that charges at 10W. Chargers need to pass certain tests to prove they can implement this charging standard correctly. Once certified, then they can charge Pixels faster using this standard. There is plenty of evidence quoted by others of how shoddily implemented aftermarket chargers can damage phones.

I'm not an expert in wireless charging technologies so please correct me if I got something wrong.

> The general standard, Qi, only supports charging at 5W.

This is false. Only the low power Qi standard is 5W. Medium power is up to 120W and there is talk of a high power mode up to 1kW.

Given that medium power is designed for laptops and monitors and such, it would be safe to presume the size and weight of that spec wouldn't be applicable to phone applications. So, the Qi spec applicable to phones only supports 5W.

> This is false.

The other standards are irrelevant to this discussion. Technically, you are correct, but still irrelevant.

So, would this problem be solved if Google labeled Qi charging as "standard-speed" and their own proprietary charging as "high-speed"? It seems like people are getting hung up on both things being called highest-speed charging, when in fact you only get the best charging performance from the Google branded chargers.

This seems similar to my Nexus 6 phone. It shipped with a Google high-speed charger (wired) which offers a 15 minute "fast charge" mode. However, if I plug it into an Apple charger (which will work just fine) it doesn't use fast charge mode and reverts to standard charge mode. I'm perfectly OK with this situation.

Is anyone else not impressed with modern phones? They all seem like the same as last year but with more arbitrary restrictions and a higher price tag.

Na man I love the fact that I no longer have a headphone jack, my battery can't be replaced and goes bad in a year, my processor runs super beefy and drains my battery faster, but I can charge it wirelessly. Yeah I'm with you the new era of phones are just bullshit. It feels like they're running out of cool things to make them do and change about them so they're just doing stupid stuff to try to find something that accidentally works.

I picked up a Nokia 6.1 (2018 version) about a month ago when my Pixel 1 stopped charging (the USB-C port failed) for £200.

It's a rock solid phone, runs stock android (Android One), no notch, decent enough camera, plenty of storage (for me).

I was planning on getting the Pixel 3 and keep the Nokia as a spare but I have no need to spend a grand on a phone which ostensibly doen't do anything more for me.

Does the camera actually work for you? Mine has a tendency to take photos 1 or 2 seconds after I try to capture it, which means I'm often taking photos of the ground. I've also got the problem that many others have reported where audio just stops when listening to music. I feel like I'm constantly fighting with this phone.

I'm having the same camera issue with mine, I read somewhere it was a known issue and they're working on a fix but who knows when that will come.

I take probably 15 pictures a year at best so haven't run into any issues as I've simply not used it other than one or two test shots.

The current generation of flagship phones (and last years') have made absolutely staggering advances in the quality of photos taken. It's no contest whatsoever, at least for me.

Yeah, cameras are where I'm seeing the most difference, and with a) a family and b) a photographer spouse that's pretty compelling. Seeing the comparison between an iPhone 7+ and an X is remarkable.

Yeah. Last phone I bought was in 2015, and I haven't felt a compelling need to upgrade since then.

I have a 6S that, while it's running fine, I would like to upgrade for a better camera. But, I want to keep the same size. So, my options are to get a year old 8 or a XS. The XR and XS Max are too large. I really don't want to spend $1000 on a phone. That's absurd to me. I'll probably end up waiting another year.

I've ruled out Android out of personal preference. Not an endorsement of iOS or a condemnation of Android. Just preference.

You could consider a used/refurb X. That might be the sweet spot under $1k, if you’re okay not buying new.

It would be very cool to have an OS option that isn't from one of these two brands. Neither seem to be very respectful of the customer, Google for its privacy practices, and Apple is just so heavy-handed it's hard to take them seriously when they say they care about the user.

Except of course iOS 12 has made my old 6 run like new

Best contenders at the moment seem to be the Librem 5, which is running essentially mobile Gnome Linux, or the e foundation / eelo, which is trying to build a privacy friendly platform on top of AOSP/Lineage, but still attempt compatibility with Play Services API’s.

Yeah, this specific year has been quite underwhelming.

The s8, iphone x, etc where great jumps ahead (or at least they seemed to be, due to the different form factor and all). It is understandable that the year after that feels underwhelming, but it's weird that they chose this specific moment to increase prices.

Perhaps there's a big jump coming in the following years and they're trying to make the price increase for those features more palatable through gradual increases?

I think if you were to have a really old phone (say 5 years) it would be more of an impressive jump than from one year to the next. I think it's harder to notice some of the incremental improvements being made. They can feel kind of lackluster because they're not as big as the initial innovation that smartphones brought.

if it has Qualcomm inside, the answer is definitely "yes"

I have an iPhone X, and use an inexpensive Samsung Qi charger. It doesn't do the fast charge, but I also only ever charge my phone at night. It's sitting there for 8ish hours anyway, so the fact that it takes like, maybe two hours to charge is a non-issue.

I imagine many Pixel 3 owners will experience the same thing. A wireless charging pad is pretty naturally a "leave it sitting there overnight" spot. Doesn't really matter that it doesn't do the fast one.

I actually prefer a slower charge since it helps the battery last longer. I wish that the charging speed was software-configurable. I also have a samsung Qi charger on my desk, with another by my bed. They slow charge my iPhone, but if I need a quick boost because I’m going back out, I’ll plug it in to an Anker charger. It’d be great if one could do it all: slow charging overnight, with faster charging in the off-hours - it could even be automatic based on what it thinks you want (and learn your habits over time), with a software override.

You're on an iPhone so I suppose this doesn't help you much, but on my (Samsung) Android phone it's possible to use a program like Tasker to programmatically toggle fast charging based on location, time of day, current battery level, etc.

I have the opposite use case. For charging at night, I just plug in the the slow wired charger. Wireless charging is more useful to me in my car and at my desk.

You don't have a usb cable permanently plugged in to you pc or laptop dock?

I have an XS, and a diagonal wireless charging stand on my desk. It's utterly fantastic not having to plug in/unplug my phone constantly. But the upright stand allows me to still see/use it nicely :)

For a few shining years, you could basically charge any device with a micro-USB cord. I guess we're going back to having a culch drawer full of one-off proprietary connectors.

Another way to look at it is that currently you can put a large number of devices (Android or iPhone) on a Qi compatible charging pad and it will charge. It's enough of a standard that it's being built into cars, which was almost never done with a fixed micro-USB or lightning dock.

All you really need to know is if the phone supports "wireless charging", and if it does it will charge on a Qi pad.

Yes there are variances in compatibility with different charging rates but the same was true of USB and it was never so universal across devices.

About six years ago quite a lot of cars had the wide 30 pin iPod charging/playing cables built-in.

Yep, that's true. Since the Android + iPhone ecosystems came aroud most went to just having USB-A ports, and now some are doing USB-C.

I know some Tesla models include a phone dock but the actual cable is interchangeable and just goes back to a normal USB-A port in the console.

Yup; our 3 came with 2 cables for the 2 phone slots; 1 USB-A to lightning and 1 USB-A to USB-C (wait, now I'm doubting myself.. maybe the 2nd cable is USB-A to micro-USB).

Anyway, point is, it has one of each, so if you have 2 phones of the same type, you'll find an active community of folks trading one for the other.

Which years were those? Mini-USB didn't die out quite quickly enough to make room for Micro-USB before USB-C came onto the scene, so I've had to have at least 2 of those 3 for most of the past decade. My entertainment center currently has to deal with all three, and I have to deal with Micro and C just about everywhere else (most things are Micro except my phone which is C). I think this is a bit of a rose colored look back on things.

I think OP was contrasting the condition prior to USB being adopted by cell phone manufacturers, when every manufacturer had their own connectors (yes plural, and it’s not even right to say “cables” since they weren’t even standardized on USB or 5V and the cable was often hard-wired to the wall wart). It was hell, and it largely ended when an EU directives aimed at reducing e-waste encouraged standardization and the whole market switched to USB (either mini or micro, but mostly micro).

This wasn’t the first regulation to have an effect, but it had the largest impact iirc (2009):


2011-2016ish. I had the following devices, all of which could be charged by micro-USB:

- HP Touchpad

- Samsung Galaxy SII

- HTC One (M7)

- Nexus 7 (2013)

- HTC One M9

Some had quick charge, some didn't, some could be charged wirelessly via proprietary or Qi standards, but they all could fall back on Micro-USB when they needed to.

Now I'm on a GS8, which means I need a USB-C cable and a micro-USB to keep my phone and tablet charged, but luckily they both support Qi charging, so I can usually get away with just tossing the wireless charger pad into my bag and be good for the day.

I'm always amazed at how many devices people seem to have. I got a Samsung Galaxy Nexus in 2011 and just replaced it with a Moto G5 Plus in 2017. Both have micro-USB.

Not so much when you look at them as a progression:

GS II -> HTC One M7 -> HTC One M9 -> GS8

HP Touchpad -> Nexus 7

If I had been able to unlock the bootloader on either of my HTC devices, I'd probably still be using them with a custom ROM of some kind. But that's Verizon for you...

All my mobile devices...5 Android phones, a Kindle, and everything else I own use Micro-USB. I haven't needed anything else for the past 10 years.

>For a few shining years, you could basically charge any device with a micro-USB cord.

thanks to the EU regulation which enforced it when proliferation of custom chargers became unbearable.

I wonder how that Google's charger lock-up will work in EU given the regulation. Or may be Google does this only in US?

You can still do charging perfectly fine, it's just not the highest speeds. For charging phones where I'm generally sitting somewhere for a while normal speed charging is fine so while it's annoying it doesn't really affect many consumers much

It's actually better for your battery to charge at the lower rate, from what I've been told.

Nope. We're just in the middle of a transition to USB-C. Even this isn't a total lockout, it's just a restriction of certain (potentially damaging-to-the-device) features.

And to be fair the USB-C transition is an utter disaster. You can't tell really at all what capabilities a given USB-C device or even cable has by its appearance.

I have a mess of black and white USB-C cables and every time I try to hook up a random USB-C accessory or plug in my USB-C laptop to its 85watt charger I have to check to check if it's charging or transferring data at full-speed. I've resorted to adding a bit of white nail-polish to the cables that I know transfer at full speed and power.

And good luck finding a quality USB-C hub that actually fulfills any of the promises of "only need to plug in one cable to run everything on your laptop at full-tilt."

> You can't tell really at all what capabilities a given USB-C device or even cable has by its appearance.

I wrote this up at https://superuser.com/a/1200112/41259

Have you ever even found a USB-C hub that has more than one USB-C port on it?

The closest I've mananged to find is https://www.belkin.com/us/p/P-F4U090/ which has a whopping two whole ports on it.

I’ve picked up a bunch of Apple’s Thunderbolt 3/USB-C cables:


They’re not cheap, but in my experience they do everything: Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1 10Gbps, and up to 100W power delivery. Now I don’t have to worry about whether the cable supports what I want to do.

For me USB-C is briliant. Can charge everything (Laptop, Tablet, Nintendo Switch) except my iphone.

It's a shame that the Nintendo Switch is on this list, because it's the shittiest of the devices to ever have a USB-C port. It's a pure lottery if it will charge with a given charger/cable - Nintendo should have never been allowed to receive USB-C certification for the lousy implementation that they have.

It "can charge" most things but maybe not at full-speed. E.g. only high-quality USB-C cables can charge at a full 85 watts. This is especially annoying with laptops where if you're doing CPU-intensive things you may end up with a dead battery at the end of the day even if you've been plugged in the whole time.

So USB-C is nice if all you're doing is charging low-wattage devices. But whenever you're doing anything else, all bets are off as to whether your particular (device-a, cable, device-b) combination will work as you'd expect or not.

I know during that time some of the Samsung phones I had wouldn't charge with any random cable. One (S3 I think) typically required a much higher quality cord (so I had 2 categories of micro USBs) and the s5 used a 21-pin cord (though I believe you could use the micro USB side with a standard cable)

You could. Iirc, my S5 used that cable for usb3 connectivity, which it couldn't do at the same time as charging!!

> Google got back to us. The Pixel 3 does not support 10W Qi charging at all. It supports 10W wireless charging, and it supports the Qi wireless charging standard, but these are two different things. Qi is capped at 5W, and for 10W wireless charging, you need a charger with what Belkin calls "Google's 10W proprietary wireless charging technology."

Google says it is "certifying" chargers for the Pixel 3 via the "Made for Google" program...

Isn't this almost a textbook example of "embrace, extend, extinguish"?

Locking chargers doesn't seem like kind of a thing EU would approve. Considering their stand on unifying all chargers.

Let's see how this plays out.

It's not locking out other chargers, just the fast charging feature.

Poorly implemented fast charging can ruin your phone's battery quicker than most anything else, so really the issue here is would you rather have google try and help protect your hardware or are you ok with taking the risk that all of the cheap chinese chargers you come across aren't going to damage your phone.

> Poorly implemented fast charging can ruin your phone's battery quicker than most anything else

But isn't the charger basically just a power supply for the phone ? i.e. the actual charging is done by the phone itself, not the charger.

Quick charging works a little differently. The charger does some handshaking with the phone and switches to a mode which violates USB voltage/power specs. I think there are multiple implementations of this by different manufacturers. Maybe the USB committee can get everyone to agree to a standard.

In any cae, the charger definitely should only be a PSU. Current, voltage, and temperature during charging should be completely managed by the phone hardware. Otherwise a defective charger can easily destroy the battery, and potentially also your house.

If I'd hazard a guess - assuming it's not only greed - they are either offloading part of that work to the charger for a smaller bill of materials for the phone, or the charger is part of the thermal design.

The higher current for fast charging might generate more heat than the body of the phone can get rid of on its own, and the stand could be engineered to cool down the phone. Almost all cordless power tool chargers have some kind of fan that connects to battery pack cooling ducts to prevent it from overheating during changing.

I'd say the heat generation is the biggest factor in fast charging wearing out the battery - lithium batteries do not like heat, and base Qi generates quite a lot of it (have a Qi charger for my Galaxy S5). Can only imagine the fun you run into trying to pump more current through them without melting the phone.

Google may well be doing this because they can't guarantee cooling on the third-party stands, and would have to throttle the charge rate when the phone started to overheat. Guess they might be pre-empting it.

"Smoothness" and stability of the incoming current is probably a factor.

OK, so build detection of that into the phone and disable charging if the source is unsuitable. Apply to all charge bases evenly. I have no problem with this.

The problem is in saying you can only use theirs, even if you have another perfectly spec-compliant source.

So if all "other chargers" for the wired version could only charge at 500mA, due to DRM, this would also be acceptable?

This is straight out of the Apple playbook of vendor lock-in and overpriced accessories.

Tbf, OnePlus is doing exactly the same with their Dash Charging standard - even though the Snapdragon CPUs they use are compatible with the QuickCharge standard, OnePlus decided not to pay the fee to Qualcomm for its use and implemented their own standard instead - which of course only works with their own chargers and cables(!).

Can the phone not monitor incoming current voltage look for things like AC on the charging signal, and disconnect the charging port if it detects those things? I know that it could, but it seems that instead of actually measuring, they’re assuming that all non-certified chargers are bad.

I believe Apple does something similar. There were only a few whitelisted Qi chargers which the iPhone X would negotiate with for fast(er) charging at launch.

You couldn't take any old higher wattage Qi charger and get the increased charging rate.

Ideally and honestly it would be based off of sheer technical quality instead of any partnership - although incentives are aligned against it I wonder if it would be possible to have proper hardware autovetting intergrated - that could work even better than mere trust potentially. Admittedly probably not economical to do so.

Then give me a warning: "This is an unauthorized charger. For the security of the phone, we have lowered the power usage. You can disable this in options -> Powermode, however Google is not responsible for any issues this might cause", add some lawyer speak and done.

Edit: Spelling

People don't read warnings, especially "lawyer speak". We knew that 25 years ago, and we've definitively proved it on the web this year.

This would be the modern tech equivalent of keeping your fingers crossed.

So if Google has some standard that has to be met, can't they just make it public and let the third party companies get certified? Or sign some kind of agreement that they promise to adhere to the standards.. something

The problem isn't a question of standardizing it. The problem is that there needs to be a process for independently validating that the products adhere to the standard. There's a huge problem with poor quality/counterfeit chargers & they pose fire risks. No amount of documents solve that problem. Just good old testing of the product itself which is time-consuming & more expensive.

More likely they make you pay to license the "new standard".

(You could say you're paying to have your implementation certified, I don't know how they will do that. I think that Google won't want to be permanently in the business of making their own exclusive brand/line of wireless phone chargers.)

I wonder if we'll see more of this from device OEMs, if only to protect against things like iffy USB-C and Qi chargers that don't conform to standards.

Standard Qi chargers don't put out enough power/heat to cause lasting issues, but a fast charger could. Similarly, Google's already seen major issues first-hand from an off-spec USB-C cable [0].

[0] https://www.engadget.com/2016/02/03/benson-leung-chromebook-...

What Google is doing here is specifically rejecting the chargers that do conform to the standard by tacking on a proprietary handshake.

HP had a similar charging DRM scheme on their first few models with USB-C charging but seems to have dropped it.

Apple has been doing this with non-MFi chargers since iOS 7. A lot of people were mad when the OS update made their perfectly good chargers stop working. Of course now there are clones of the MFi authentication chip and even with a new chip revision Apple can't reject them without also breaking all of the old legitimate chargers. So it completely failed to actually solve the problem anyway.

This is bunk - I use a TON aid non-MFI chargers, and without exception they work as long as I have a decent cable. Old, dodgy or worn out cables can cause an error message but it’s got nothing to do with an MFI chip in the charger.

Ah yes sorry, I meant to say cable rather than charger.

If only there were an organization that could test and certify that these products adhere to the standards...

Too many counterfeits. The solution is basically what Apple did: put MFi chips in everything to ensure the valuable hardware isn't damaged, and lock down who can get the chips. Obviously this is very difficult for a standards body.

There are such organizations, and yet the counterfeit problem persists (and the world's largest retailer does little to stop it).

On-device protection is way more effective anyway.

My guess is that the implementation is not good enough, and fast charging generates a lot of heat in the handset. Only with their own charging can they guarantee enough heat dispersion in the charger. Wireless charging is a bit lossy and can generate a lot of heat - I know this from experience designing devices, although everything else is guesswork.

Whether it was always intended to be incompatible,or they had to put the hacky handshake in late in the process to prevent the device being 'a bit fiery' I don't know.

It's also disappointing that while Pixel 3 supports USB-PD, which is forward looking, it has no support for older protocols, even conventional 2.4A USB charging. I tried charging one with my car USB port and it the charging rate was lower than the power consumption, so it died after a few hours of navigation.

There are tons of conventional chargers out in the world (card, hotels and airports, power banks, etc.) and it's stupid to deprecate them, especially given that the Snapdragon inside actually supports those.

As far as I can tell, there's no such thing as "conventional 2.4A USB charging". The USB 2 spec limits power output to 5v, 900 mA. USB 3 has the Battery Charging Specification that allows up to 1.5 A. I think you might be thinking of Qualcomm Quick Charge?

The USB Battery Charging spec is separate from USB3. The 1.5A is the minimum available current for charging port; the max is 5A. But the limit for legacy USB cables is 2.4A.

USB 2.0 Battery Charging Spec 1.2 goes up to 5A.

It is pretty unbelievable that it doesn't and I haven't seen any other reports. Lots of car USB ports only provide the base 500 mA. Did you try any other USB chargers? Did you use Ampere app to see the current?

You really don't want to go plugging your phone into a random USB port, irrespective of whether it's compatible with the charger or not.

Just imagine the shitstorm if it was s/Google Pixel 3/Apple iPhone/

The amount of angry tweets and 10+ minute long YouTube rants (for the monetization) would break the internet.

Pretty sad to see where things are going. Computing started with everything being proprietary, then from the 80s on you saw wide open systems and standards developed. And I think standards are what enabled the rapid growth of the industry and the internet. And now the big players are trying to revert and make everything proprietary again. No standard protocols, hardware that barely can be opened or repaired.

Think of patents unrestrained (thanks to some really bad jurisprudence in the 90s and beyond) as the antithesis of open standards.

This adds to the list of reasons why I won't be getting a Pixel 3. Other reasons include the notch on the screen, the glass on the back, and the reduced efficacy of autocorrect.

I'm using a Pixel 2 currently, and the back is heavily cracked because I am clumsy and drop it often. Who puts glass on the back of the phone and why?

I'm definitely with you about the whole glass-back issue. I know people like wireless charging, but glass isn't the only option.

Can we please go back to plastic? It was lighter and far more impact resistant.

Also, can I just have a rectangular screen? I don't need it to be curved or have rounded edges. I'm ok with a chin and/or forehead bezel. No notch, though.

Not to mention headphone jacks, removable batteries, and physical buttons.

Either google doesn't know how to implement the Qi standard[0], the wireless power consortium compatibility tests are complete garbage[also 0], and/or they have discovered a known defect and are trying to work around in order to prevent another airplane-fire recall kind of situation (highly unlikely, if true). I hope that Qi pulls their licence for this move, but I doubt it.


I believe 10w charging is a non-standard extension to Qi. QC & Apple have competing implementations & I'm not clear what version Pixel is using. Apple definitely also restricts 10w charging to MFI-certified 3P chargers. If Google doesn't enable validated 3P chargers that would be a shame.

You can actually read the specification here: https://www.wirelesspowerconsortium.com/downloads/download-w...

As of at least 1.2.2 (April 2016) the Qi spec has supported 15 W through an Extended Power Profile

A Baseline Power Profile supporting transfer of up to about 5 W and an Extended Power Profile supporting transfer of up to about 15 W of power using an appropriate Secondary Coil (having a typical outer dimension of around 40 mm).

> Apple definitely also restricts 10w charging to MFI-certified 3P chargers.

Bunk - Apple doesn’t certify chargers, just the lightning cables that connect to them.

The article already quotes a 3P charger that passes the certification and is available to purchase.

eh, they don't strike me as a company where some marketing doofus pushed this through to try and make an extra buck.

seems more likely that they wanted to see how far they could push the wattage and in doing so they found some pretty tight tolerances with respect to safety and reliability so they took care to ensure that it would only work in the tested configuration.

at the end of the day, it still supports the standard. would be nice to see them try to push the standard forward, which they still very well may do.

2 deflating thoughts;

- Qi has always been a slow charge thing in my books. If that's changed, the specifications for the Qi charger required could very clearly be listed, and the Pixel could track the specs of the power coming in at some level I'd hope.

- If sub-par quality QI chargers are a potential hazard, I would say sub-par AC chargers are a far larger hazard from installed footprint. That lock-in would have happened a long time ago if it would have been tolerated by Apple and Google.

Someone will likely find a workaround.

Apple does disable 3rd party chargers that haven't been certified, at least for high-power charging.

Fair point, I meant iPhone charging can happen from third party USB power sources, and should have been clear.

False - only bad cables cause errors, 3rd party chargers work fine - even at high speeds.

> but it's hard to imagine a justification for this.

There are dubious chargers out there that are outright unsafe. It is in no way hard to imagine the argument that don't want to pull 10W through some no-name made-in-China piece of crap you got from Amazon that will burn your house down, because it wasn't even tested at 5W.

This seems something apple like. I think Google is pretty evil now. The company needs to be replaced.

Are the Pixels actually that popular? I feel like another company (Samsung, LG) could corner the market on the "pure android" phone and have a better product. I'm surprised Google feels so confident with it's mediocre and overpriced phones.

on time patches, a superior camera, there are a few reasons to get a pixel.

9 month off product cycle from other android manufacturer means a cpu that will be a generation behind in 3 months when the next samsung, etc release though. As well as other drawbacks.

That's why I was saying that that they need to get onto Android base - then the only thing will be the camera, which to be fair, Google is really great at.

Is there anything about the Pixel 3 that doesn't suck?

This probably won't fly...

I can tell you that is at least literally true.

Shocking that Apple hasn’t pulled this BS yet. I guess next model we’ll see it.


google playing by apple's book to extract revenues, one more nail in "don't be evil" coffin

Qi is the most disgusting over-complicated protocol ever.

Complain to Margrethe Vestager.

Google bosses tremble in their boots whenever they see blue stockings.

No headphone jack? Can't use the fast charger that came in my vehicle? Nope and Nope.

Buy the LG v35 or v40. These phones have a headphone jack, has an OLED screen, is waterproof, has an SD card slot, works on Project Fi, and if you've ever dealt with LG customer support, they're great. The v35 has a 'normal' lens and a 'wide angle' camera, and the v40 has both of those plus a telephoto. The Pixel2's portrait mode was abysmal compared to the offerings from Apple, but LG's portrait mode absolutely stomps both the pixel and iphone. There's no reason to buy a pixel.

Also Moto G6 / Nokia 7 are pretty strong contenders in the $300-something no-bullshit phone segment with dual lens (I'm very happy about my G5+ camera's depth simulation - and my main shooter is a Fuji X100 with F2.0 lens on an APSC sensor, so care about that!).

The downvotes crack me up. I suggested a product that addresses all of the weaknesses of the OT. A fellow commentor suggested some more affordable alternatives. I'd really like to why you felt the need to give the passive aggressive downvote without a comment; that to me would be interesting.

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