If you're an Android fan, you're probably familiar with Qualcomm's Quick Charge technology or, at the very least, what it can do. Quick Charge 3.0, the third generation of Qualcomm's fast-charging technology, is built into most Snapdragon SoCs and it's what lets you charge your phone's battery up to 70% power in just 30 minutes. What's not to like?
Well, rumors have now surfaced that Qualcomm will be launching Quick Charge 4.0 bundled within the Snapdragon 830 sometime in early 2017. This news comes on the heels of the updated Android Compatibility Definition Document (CDD) in which Google outlines the dos and don'ts of building Android devices.
According to the new CDD, OEMs building Android phones with USB Type-C inputs are now "STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to not support proprietary charging methods that modify Vbus voltage beyond default levels," like Qualcomm's Quick Charge does. For now, this edict is more heavy suggestion than punishable offense. However, Google goes on to note:
"While this is called out as 'STRONGLY RECOMMENDED', in future Android versions we might REQUIRE all type-C devices to support full interoperability with standard type-C chargers."
The problem is that Quick Charge—along with similar products from MediaTek, OnePlus, and others—is a proprietary technology, which means that only devices and chargers that have paid to license the tech are able to use it.
This creates interoperability issues that can range from annoying (you can't quick charge your phone at your friend's house because they don't have a compatible charger) to legitimately dangerous (you burn down your friend's house by charging your phone anyway). Keep in mind that the CDD only warns against proprietary charging for USB Type-C devices and not older USB types.
Google isn't being petty here. USB Type-C supports its own standard of power delivery called USB Power Delivery. It's fast, but it's not nearly as fast as the proprietary methods that Google hopes to shun.
When reached for comment regarding the new guidelines, a Qualcomm representative responded to us with the following:
Quick Charge and USB Type-C are compatible. There are many smartphones on the market today (more than 100 using Quick Charge 2 or 3) utilizing both USB Type-C and Quick Charge 3.0/2.0. These devices are compatible with both technologies. Certified Quick Charge adapters are designed to communicate with a given device to deliver the requested voltage. In fact, Quick Charge intelligence helps ensure the proper charge is delivered regardless of connector type and cable length or thickness.
Quick Charge 3.0 and USB Power Delivery can co-exist in the same ecosystem, providing unique benefits for different use cases. Quick Charge 3.0 offers a low cost, and in most cases free, method for improving charge time without the processing overhead, development complexity and cost adders associated with USB-PD. For use cases that do not demand some of the USB-PD features, Quick Charge can cost as little as one tenth the bill of material to implement. Furthermore, Quick Charge will still allow a high level of efficiency and fast charging.
The issue for Google comes down to universal interoperability for Android devices and chargers. It's another face of the fragmentation issue that has plagued Android from the start, and Google's latest moves have shown that the company is keen to unify its ecosystem.
In theory, universal interoperability is good for consumers as a whole, but if it means waiting longer to charge their phones, is it something that consumers actually want? For their part, Qualcomm also let us know that:
"Quick Charge technology is much more than a communications protocol (i.e. USB-PD), and therefore can be easily adjusted to provide all the benefits [to] OEMs, carriers and consumers while also adhering to Android requirements."
So while the chip manufacturer wouldn't comment on future products, we may yet see a Quick Charge product that plays nice with the competition.
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