Tech Talk: Goodbye In-Box Phone Chargers, Hello Facebook Smartwatch
STORY: Nicholas Yong
22 February 2021
Back in 2017 (aka the good ol’ B.C. aka Before-COVID days), I was in New York for the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 in 2017. At that time, I remember distinctively how Samsung said with a confirm-plus-chop tone that they would retain the headphone jack, after the bad press Apple received over their omission of headphone jacks from the iPhone 7 onwards.
But voilà, the Samsung Galaxy S10 came without a headphone jack – and every other major smartphone made the same move after that.
Fast forward to 2020 – we’re now seeing the demise of in-box phone chargers. It started with the iPhone 12, and the idea was toyed with by its biggest competitors, and now Samsung and Xiaomi (China only) have followed suit.
The logic: Removing in-box phone chargers from brand new smartphones decreases the size of the packaging, which reduces not only the amount of cardboard used but also the brand’s carbon footprint. Of course, a smaller box means brands can also ship more phones at a time ($$$).
Granted, with Apple, you probably need to buy a new phone charger anyway if you’re looking to fast charge your iPhone (the charger that comes in-box doesn’t support that). And there’s the argument that if you can afford a new phone, you can spend $29 at Apple or $28 at Samsung for a new charger. At least they didn’t remove the charging cable, so that’s one less thing to buy.
But back to being environmentally conscious – while major smartphone manufacturers may be reducing their carbon footprint, this essentially means the baton is passed to us, the consumers.
Some food for thought while we digest this logic: What about all the external packaging and materials that come with buying a new phone charger and wireless earbuds. Not to mention the shipping box that protects your new purchase when you buy online from Amazon, Lazada, or Shopee.
What about wireless charging?
Apple believes it’s the future - re-introducing its MagSafe magnetic charging to the iPhone 12. Plus, there’re rumours that future iPhones may not have a charging port at all. You can bet that every major smartphone manufacturer will do the same.
But wireless charging isn’t actually all that better either. In an article by Eric Ravenscraft for Tech publication Debugger, the writer’s tests showed that wireless charging used around 47% more power on average compared to charging with a cable.
Why does this happen? This is essentially because of the tech behind wireless charging. The phone needs to align properly with the charging pad. Otherwise, not only does it not charge properly, plenty of heat is wasted in the process.
Wireless charging is convenient and MagSafe is one way that helps slightly, but until the tech improves, calculations from OneZero and iFixit show widespread use of wireless charging could impact worldwide power supply.
GaN chargers are the future (for now)
In my opinion, the best way that these top smartphone companies could mitigate this phone charger issue is by following Xiaomi Mi 11’s international launch. The company is including a 55W Gallium nitride (GaN) charger with the Xiaomi Mi 11.
What’s a GaN charger? It uses fewer materials and produces less heat, so components can be placed closer together and the charger can maintain its compact size while keeping the same power capabilities and safety standards of a regular fast charging brick.
I’ll deep dive into GaN chargers next month. Watch this space!
Facebook coming up with a new smartwatch?
Not only does Facebook want to take over the world, it wants to be a part of you too, if rumours from The Information are to be believed.
The proposed FB smartwatch will likely be based on Google Wear OS, but FB is also reportedly working on its own operating system. The smartwatch should come with the usual features (fitness trackers, health etc.) and could integrate with FB Messaging.
Apart from a smartwatch, FB may also be dropping a pair of smartglasses in collaboration with Ray Ban. The company has not confirmed any of these rumours, so take this news with a pinch of salt.
Android 12 to be named after your favourite dessert?
Android fans know that new releases of the smartphone OS used to come with delicious dessert names, like Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, KitKat, and Lollipop. Google has stopped using these names in consumer devices from Android 10 onwards (boo!) but internally, Google still refers to new Android releases with dessert names. Android 11 is supposedly Red Velvet Cake (anyone getting some serious craving now?)
The upcoming Android 12 XDA Developers have said that its name is Snow Cone. That’s somewhat meh, but I’m looking forward to the fun Easter Egg that comes with every Android release. Last year’s Android 11 release had a Red Velvet Cake recipe etched into a 3D augmented reality statue.
As for what Android 12 has to offer, possible inclusions are a dedicated one-handed mode, a gaming mode that could auto-enable “Do Not Disturb”, and an auto-rotate function that uses the front camera to know exactly what orientation to switch to.