Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wireless charger for the Nexus 5

QiWhen I bought my Nexus 5, I thought I would get better battery life than the iPhone 5S, as it had a substantially larger battery. I was wrong. It gave similar battery life, however I didn't have to tweak the OS like I had to do for iOS to get the same battery life. I let all the Google services run in the background because that's the way you are supposed to use a smartphone. I apparently hadn't been using the iPhone like one.

With Lollipop, I thought that the situation would improve but instead it got worse. Everyone using a Nexus 5 is facing reduced battery life, among other issues.

When I posted about my disappointment on Facebook, Kalinga told me to buy few wireless chargers and place the phone on top of one whenever the phone is being used. What he actually meant was to use one at home and use another one at work. Having a charger at work would solve my problem. However, I'm not sure if we are allowed to use one, especially one which connects to the PC via USB, due to data security, especially with an Android device. With the iPhone, you cannot do much without iTunes – no such limitations with a Nexus.

I didn't know that the Nexus 5 supported wireless charging. It does, as per specs on Google’s Nexus 5 product page. It’s sad that they don’t ship it with a wireless charger. Google sells the official charger separately, but it is quite expensive: more than 10 times the price of the unit I was directed towards.

Despite being uncertain of the possibility of using one at the office, I wanted to give one a try so decided to order one. The unit I ordered, the Qi Wireless Charging Pad, cost me less than JPY 400 on eBay. (Here is the link to the eBay listing). It took about 2-3 week's to get here (that is, Japan) though, and it came in a small envelop and not in a box. The only protection it had was a bubble wrap.  Although it was very inexpensive, the actual hardware looked decent. Well, there isn't much to it really. It has an orange LED indicator to show that it is powered up which changes its color to blue to indicate it's charging, a USB cable to connect to the PC and the actual rounded Qi charging pad.

I connected the USB cable to the back of my PC and straightaway placed my phone - covered with its case of course - on the charging pad. It detected the phone and started charging but momentarily stopped charging. This start charging - stop charging dance went on for about 4 rounds, but then it went on to charge the phone without any interruptions. At first I thought this weird behavior was because of the case I had (click here to read about the case I bought), but my wife's phone, which doesn't have a case at the moment, (mis)behaved identically. I suppose that's the way Qi charging works. (That said, I haven't looked into how wireless charging works. Guess this is the right time to read about it.) Just to see if it worked properly, I let the phone charge for a while and it managed to charge it reasonable quickly. When I went to sleep, I left the phone on top of it and as expected, the phone had a full charge when I checked back in the morning. (If it didn't, I would have been Royally pissed!)


When it is not charging


With my Nexus 5 on the charging pad

While I'm indeed pleased with the speed as well as the consistency of charging with this wireless charging unit, there is one concern. I'm not comfortable letting it charge for lengthy periods at a time. This is because the phone can get very hot after a while. I can feel the warmth of it even through the case. Why this is a concern is due to the fact that Li-Ion batteries, which all of these devices are powered by, do not like heat. High temperature degrades the charging ability of Li-Ion batteries. I read over the internet that some people who have been using wireless charging are now seeing shorter battery life than they used to get few months ago. This is worrying as the Nexus 5 doesn't have a removable battery and I want to use this phone for another 2 years at least.

So I've decided – for the time being - to not use the wireless charger when I'm charging it for long periods at a time.  When I'm charging the phone overnight, I would plug it to the PC instead. In fact, I was so concerned about the heat issue that I even removed Asus’ quick charging USB driver from the PC because higher amperage would result in higher heat generation. How much hotter it would get is anyone's guess.

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