Battery technology has been advancing at a glacial pace for many years now, which has severely limited the processing power of mobile devices. Recent advances in charging technology have eased the burden a little, though. Features like Qualcomm’s Quick Charge mean you can get a substantial power boost with just a little time on the charger. Qualcomm has just announced the fourth generation of its charging standard, and this time it’s shaking things up.
Past versions of Qualcomm Quick Charge have been based on its own standard, which is somewhat at odds with the USB specification. QC 3.0 and earlier modify Vbus voltages and the source roles of pins in the connector to support its proprietary method of charging. The upshot being that Quick Charge is fast, but it also contributes to confusion in the market and could be more dangerous for batteries over time as it continues to push more voltage in each revision of Quick Charge.
Google’s recently updated Android Compatibility Definition Document (CDD) for Nougat comes out strongly against non-standard fast charging systems like Qualcomm’s. The CDD now strongly recommends that device makers don’t use charging methods that screw with the USB standard, and that may actually become a requirement in future versions of Android. Ignoring this could prevent a piece of hardware from being certified for Google apps. Luckily, Quick Charge 4 is based on the standard USB Power Delivery (USB-PD) and USB Type-C specifications.
Quick Charge 4 will be a feature of the upcoming Snapdragon 835 SoC, which was also announced. Although, Qualcomm is keeping some of the details here close to the chest. The Snapdragon 835 uses Samsung’s 14nm FinFET process and includes up to a 30% increase in area efficiency with 27% higher performance, corresponding to a 40% reduction in power consumption. This will be an octa-core chip with improved Kyro 200 custom CPU cores and an updated Adreno GPU.
If you’ve ever had to research chargers just to figure out which one will be able to rapidly charge your phone, this will come as a relief. The different bands of fast charging adapters should be more or less interoperable. Without all the unusual hardware features, what makes Quick Charge 4 better than the standard USB-PD favored by Google? Qualcomm says it’s version of fast charging uses a system called Intelligent Negotiation for Optimum Voltage (INOV). It’s supposed to negotiate the charging speed more efficiently and take into account the temperature of your battery. Battery temperatures are supposed to be 5 degrees cooler on average compared to Quick Charge 3.0. That’s a nice thing to have in a post-Note 7 world.
Qualcomm says that Quick Charge 4 is 20% faster than the 3.0 variant, and this despite the same 18W rating as the old version. Efficiency has also been boosted by 30%, meaning you can get more power in a shorter amount of time. Qualcomm says five minutes of charging gets you about 5 hours of usage, but that’s only at the fastest charging speed when a battery is almost depleted. Quick Charge 4 devices will step up through as many as three levels of charging speed if they are equipped with the Snapdragon 835. That chip won’t be available in phones until early next year, so that’s when the first devices with Quick Charge 4 will arrive.