S6 wireless charging pad review

Having given a little bit of background to wireless charging technology, it’s now time for me to review Samsung’s wireless charging pad.

The Good

Galaxy S6 wireless charging

My Samsung Galaxy S6 wirelessly charging on the S6 Qi charging pad

So what’s good about Samsung’s wireless charging pad? It’s a wireless charging pad! It can wirelessly charge your phone!!!!! Providing it’s an S6 of course.

The proximity of the sensor is pretty good, you get the best (fastest) charge by putting the phone – without a case – centrally on the pad. That said, my phone charges perfectly well when it’s in its case, and you can lift it up about an inch in the air, and it will still charge – just a little slower.

The pad is reasonably small and very well designed. Being plastic, it doesn’t have the same quality feel to it that the S6 itself has, but it is still aesthetically pleasing, lighting up blue when your phone is charging, and green when it hits 100% – just like the LED on the S6 does.

The pad has a safety feature built in to stop overcharging, meaning that once your phone hits 100% charge (some people report this is closer to 90%, but for me it’s been 100%) then it stops emitting power.

When I’m at my desk, my phone sits next to me, so I’ve just got it resting on the pad now instead. I can still pick it up and use it as frequently as I like, without damaging the pad or the battery.

It couldn’t be simpler to use, it really is as easy and placing your phone on the pad and so long as its reasonably central, it will charge.

The Not-So-Good

My first S6 charging pad shock came when I realised it doesn’t come with any leads. ‘It’s wireless charging, why do you want leads?‘ you may be shouting, but unless it were battery powered (which it isn’t, because wireless charging is too inefficient to make a battery powered version effective) you need to plug the pad into a power source.

Wireless charging pad fully charged

The S6 on Samsung’s Qi charging pad, showing the green, fully charged lights

Samsung’s recommended retail price for the pad is £40 GBP (or a slightly cheaper $50 USD in the States) and yet that doesn’t include a mains plug, or a micro USB charger. The only other thing that comes in the box is a hefty multi-language instruction leaflet, reminding you not to throw the pad off a cliff, strike it with a hammer or take it for a swim. I’d rather they’d saved the paper personally.

Being wireless, the pad doesn’t charge as fast as a wired connection, and is nowhere near the speed of a fast charger. For some people this is a major gripe, but it doesn’t really bother me. I know that it’s going to charge slower, but it’s also going to be more convenient to use. If my phone’s nearly dead and I’m going out in an hour, I’ll turn it off, plug it into a fast charger and I know that by the time I go out, it’ll be pretty much fully charged. If however my phone is nearly dead, but I’m at my desk all day, I’ll leave it switched on and on the pad, knowing that if I need to use it at any point, I can simply lift it up, without having to fiddle with that annoying micro USB.

Something to be aware of is that you’ll probably need to plug the charging pad into a mains socket, rather than a USB port on your computer. I was hoping to power the pad from my PC, which the first time I used it seemed to work okay – it just charged a bit slower – however from then on it’s not managed to squeeze quite enough energy out of the USB port and down the wire into the pad. As a result the charger keeps disconnecting, meaning my phone keeps dinging and bonging to let me know that it’s charging, not-charging, charging, not-charging – you get the picture.

Is It Worth It?

So is Samsung’s wireless charging pad worth a purchase? Well that’s a tricky one to answer. If you have a phone which is wireless charging compatible, charging wirelessly is undoubtedly a useful feature. If money is no object for you, most certainly run out and get one – or get your butler to buy one for you online.

Had the pad included a mains power plug and a micro USB lead I would say yes. It is £40, but for that you get a ready to use wireless charging pad. The fact that for Samsung has chosen not to include a means to power the pad, means that I think this has to be more of an individual decision. I’m sitting on the fence on this one. A great product, it looks good and is convenient to use, but it’s under-accessorised and overpriced.

Finally, I must say a thanks to Mobile Fun who sent this S6 charger to us for review. We were discussing the review just after 5pm and the pad was delivered ready for the review by 11am the next day – that’s super fast delivery!

How does wireless charging work?

This is my two hundred and fiftieth (writing it out in full looks better than 250th) article on Technology Bloggers! It’s taken nearly four and a quarter years to get this far, but here I am, still blogging away. 🙂
That’s an average of 5 posts per month!

Not that anyone’s keeping score, but Jonny is hot on my heals now with 165 – just 85 behind me!

Finally, wireless charging on a mainstream mobile phone has arrived. Samsung’s Galaxy S6, S6 Edge and S6 Active all come wireless charging ready. Unfortunately we aren’t yet at the stage where your phone can wirelessly charge in your pocket, you do have to buy a wireless charging pad and have it sit on that, but it’s a step further than we have ever been before. This article gives an incite into the technology behind wireless charging, and then in my next article I’m going to review Samsung’s official wireless charging pad.

Wireless Charging Technology

Tesla coil wireless power

A Tesla Coil being used to wirelessly power a light bulb

The capability to power things wirelessly is not a new phenomenon. Way back in the late 1800s, Nikola Tesla was using his Tesla Coil to power things from across the room. You might have done a similar experiment in science lessons at school, using a Tesla Coil to light up a light bulb.

The reason it’s taken so long for wireless charging to become mass market is because compared to wired charging, it is hugely inefficient. Wireless charging wastes a lot of energy as heat, meaning less is used to actually power the device. Wireless charging also takes longer than wired power, and as such is much more expensive.

Plugging my phone (the Galaxy S6) into a standard micro USB port will charge it from flat in around 2 hours. Plugging it into a fast charger takes just over an hour for a full charge. Charging wirelessly from flat takes over 3 hours. That’s 3 hours of electricity being used, compared to 1 in a fast charger.

Wireless charging has also taken a while to become mainstream because of problems with proximity. Tesla could power a light bulb from across the room, but that wasn’t controllable. If he had 2 light bulbs and only wanted to power one, he had no way of stopping power reaching the other. With so many different devices and radio frequencies about today, it is essential that wireless charging works without interfering with any other signals – for example your mobiles 4G signal. As such wireless charging has a very low proximity range. My S6 quite literally has to be on or within an inch or two of the pad to charge. A range of 1 meter would be fantastic, however that could fry other bits of tech, or ruin the magnetic strip on my credit cards.

Despite over 100 years in the making, wireless charging is still in reasonable early stages of development. It is a great idea, and when it works, it is super convenient and very useful, but still has a long way to go.

If you want to find out more about how wireless charging works, I recommend this YouTube video as a good place to start.

Data centers – where would we be without them?

It is hardly a controversial opinion to suggest that data centers are an indispensable part of modern life – it really is impossible to envisage a world without the vast capacity and power that data centers grant the business and information technology sectors – where would we all be without Google, eBay and Facebook? But what exactly are the advantages of a data center that their absence would remove? Let’s take a look…

Firstly, the cost to enterprises of running an in-house own data center is increasingly prohibitive, given the growing size requirements of such facilities. As more and more information is transmitted online and more transactions take place online – just as computing power continues to grow – then a data center needs exponentially more power and more hard disk space. Server racks just keep on getting longer and even keeping them cool enough becomes uneconomically costly for most small, medium or even large-sized enterprises.

Server RoomSecurity is the second big issue – in a world where cyber-crime and espionage is constantly growing, there needs to be a very robust response to security. Most enterprises just don’t have the time and resources to police their IT operations to the level required, and a good data center can give them the reassurances they need. Technicians can be on hand throughout the 24-hour cycle, not just to ensure that the server racks keep on functioning perfectly and that any problems are swiftly dealt with, but also to ensure that information is kept safe and secure and that hacking or phishing attempts are roundly thwarted.

So, where would we be without data centers? The answer is that we would have a vastly more limited cyber-world, with businesses forced to keep their computer operations artificially scaled back due to cost considerations, with the knock-on effect of a hobbled e-commerce sector. Social networks would be slow, unsafe and prone to disastrous infiltration, while search engines would also be grindingly slow and frustrating to use – welcome back to the late 1990s.

It’s safe to say that data centers are not only here to stay, but will keep getting bigger and better so long as the computer world leads the way.

Are smartphone battery life improvements on the way?

We all want a little more power. Smartphone manufacturers have catered to this desire, as they’ve continually pumped out increasingly powerful devices.

This year we’re seeing many quad-core devices with 1.5GHz processors, powered by 4G LTE networks, and with vibrant high-resolution displays. Yet these high-powered devices are about to hit a wall if we don’t see some critical changes in battery efficiency. Without adequate battery life, even the most powerful smartphone is useless.

Thankfully, there are a few reasons to believe that we’ll see appropriate improvements in the near future. Here are three reasons why we will see smartphone battery life improve in the coming months and years. It will be a great boon to consumers, who will be able to use their phones heavily for longer.

1. Consumer disappointment

Earlier this year, Motorola made something of a bold move. In a world of thinning smartphones, it actually released, and heavily marketed, a smartphone that is considerably thicker than many of its other models.

This only worked, however, because with the increased thickness came greater battery life. By most reasonable tests, the Droid RAZR MAXX lasts nearly twice as long on a single battery charge than most of its competitors.

The rationale behind this marketing campaign was simple. People love their smartphones, but get frustrated when they can’t last on a single charge throughout a day. Again, a powerless smartphone is a useless smartphone.

You can stuff all the features in the world under the hood of a phone, but if people need to constantly recharge in order to use those features there’s not a lot to be gained. Improved battery life will simply become a necessity that manufacturers cannot ignore.

2. Changing energy trends

The way we consume energy is always changing. The recent technology revolution will change it yet again. Most of our modern computing devices employ DC power, but our wall sockets deliver AC power. That leads to a few inefficiencies, since the difference requires a converter of sorts, whether that’s in the device or in the power source itself. We might see that change in short order.

As Technology Review notes, there is a growing demand for DC current source. It is possible that we could see power companies start to deliver DC power to our outlets in the next few decades, which should make the whole charging and powering process more efficient. The lack of conversion could make that big a difference.

Yet, given our consume-driven culture, it probably won’t make as much of a difference as my next point.

3. Apple’s doing it

It seems that whatever Apple does, other companies copy. Apple has long been an iconic force in technology, and their iPad and iPhone empire has helped solidify its spot at the top.

What they do with the iPhone 5 could again change the smartphone industry. As GigaOM’s Kevin Tofel notes, Apple could focus on battery life with the new iPhone, rather than creating another thinner model. He cites the increased battery capacity of the new iPad, which seems reasonable enough.

Improving smartphone batteriesIf Apple does indeed create a thicker smartphone that focuses on battery life, others will be pressed to follow suit. Remember, Apple essentially tells consumers what they want. Perhaps they wanted it previously – and plenty of customers have demanded better battery life from smartphones – but Apple does have the definitive word.

It’s hard to explain, but it’s clearly the case based on how the smartphone industry has developed. If Apple goes for battery life, we can expect others to jump on the bandwagon too.

Battery life has become a pressing issue for the future of smartphones. Manufacturers have created devices that are as powerful as full-sized computers of recent memory. Now they need adequate power for them.

Since a powerless smartphone is a useless smartphone, expect companies to jump on the better-battery bandwagon soon enough. Apple could get things kick-started this year. Things will likely develop rapidly from there.