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January 29, 2021
☕ Good morning! A week that feels like it's been a month, but it's Friday!
We all charge air now

Xiaomi’s Mi Air Charge has been announced, a brand new device and idea from the company that offers wireless charging from across the room. Yes, wireless charging from far away.

This graphic from Xiaomi explains it pretty well:

That seems next-generation tech now! Which is exciting! But also, you’d correct to be skeptical! 

Yet:

  • What’s fun is that Motorola also has a new air-to-air charging solution, just like Mi Air Charge.
  • Seemingly announced to distract from Xiaomi’s product, Lenovo China’s General Manager Chen Jin popped a video of the tech onto Weibo, hinting that it may come to future Motorola Edge devices.
  • In doing so, the Lenovo GM may have somewhat legitimized Xiaomi’s announcement.

In any case, here’s where we are. The Mi Air Charge is a box you plug in to provide wireless charging over the air to a device that’s within “several meters” of a charging station. 

  • No wires, no charging stands or mats, no specific phone location required. 
  • You just have to have your phone, smartwatches, or other wearable devices near enough to the “several meter” (3-9ft?) range.
  • Physical obstacles apparently don’t get in the way or reduce charging efficiency.
  • Xiaomi has 17 patents and a full marketing post about what it is.
  • To make it work in smartphones, a set of antenna arrays are also required, so no phone or device you own today will work with this.

The tech:

  • The reason this doesn’t sound completely crazy and actually feasible isn’t just because Moto is doing it too. The tech has existed for some time.
  • Also, the Mi Air Charge looks like a huge box that delivers a stated 5W of power. That’s not much at all! And it likely warms your phone even at that level of power.
  • The tech explanation from Xiaomi is not really useful. Quote: “Xiaomi’s self-developed isolated charging pile has five phase interference antennas built in, which can accurately detect the location of the smartphone. A phase control array composed of 144 antennas transmits millimeter-wide waves directly to the phone through beamforming.”
  • I studied electrical engineering, and there’s nothing here that’s usable other than it’s radio frequency waves. Without at least some actual diagrams and insights, I wouldn’t say I understand this at all.

Benefit of the doubt is one thing buuut:

  • Obviously, people are going to worry about safety. How does this affect my dog, my kids, my future kids, the metal plate in my arm, my pacemaker, my Bill Gates-installed 5G chip?
  • Obviously, people are going to worry about efficiency. How many kilowatts does this burn to give my phone 5W of charging?
  • The (current model) physical Air Charge device looks genuinely huge: as tall as a couch and about half as wide. Um, ok? As one of my colleagues said on slack: put a cushion on it and you have a weird ottoman.
  • Also, Xiaomi hasn’t, as far as I can tell, given this to anyone to test out, nor is there pricing or availability.
  • So, no smartphone has it, Xiaomi isn’t committing to a release yet, and it’s more like a proof of something sci-fi being real, even if the proof is flawed, but hey, at least it’s not entirely within a lab.
  • It’s still a tiny bit exciting, because we all want our devices to be at 100% charge just as we go about our days at home or in the office. No one really wants to have to plug-in, align, place a device perfectly, buy a new charger when the port type changes…
  • But I can’t see anyone having this solution in their house this year (which Xiaomi confirmed, so no points to me), but even in 2022 it seems unlikely, plus a bunch of competing specs and standards… maybe cases with a bunch of tech can solve this?
Roundup

Round Up:

🧻 Samsung Display will develop rollable and sliding screens in 2021 (Android Authority).

📸 Sony Xperia 1 III renders seem to reveal a much better zoom lens, largely the same looking device elsewhere (Android Authority).

🗝 Leaving WhatsApp? You can now move your chat history to Telegram (Android Authority).

🥽 The Oculus Quest 2 seems like it might’ve been a huge seller from Facebook’s earnings data and detail from IDC: 3M in its first quarter? (Twitter).

🎯 Robinhood, oh Robinhood. A disastrous 24 hours saw the no-fee trading app company widely trashed after it had to stop people buying GameStop and other volatile shares to save its own bacon, but didn’t communicate that well at all. It raised an emergency $1B+ from existing investors to handle the cash flow problems caused by collateral required as money trades complete. Class action lawsuits have been filed (NYTimes).

🔻 People crashed Robinhood’s Play Store and App Store reviews right down to 1 star, but Google, at least, salvaged it by auto-removing more than 100,000 negative reviews it identified as falsely manipulative. Some people are saying you can re-review (Android Authority).

👍 Discord says it’s now helping r/WallStreetBets members with a new server and moderation/management of an influx of users (The Verge).

🌲 Also caught up in it all: the @robinhood Twitter account, which is distinctly more Sherwood (Twitter).

🐶 And Dogecoin also went crazy, up 5x in 24 hours. Ah, dogecoin, still just a dog on a coin (#tothemoon) (Ars Technica).

🍎 Tim Cook trashed Facebook’s business model, again, and again, Facebook responded. Every crazy thing from the feud that happened today. (Ars Technica).

🥵 Brokers of Reddit: How crazy is it where you work/on the trade floor right now? (r/askreddit).

✨ The huge story about purported phosphine being found on Venus seems like it’s just ordinary old sulfur dioxide, with two new papers seemingly making the life of Venus claim look far far less likely. That’s science at its best! (Nature).

🦷 The news we all needed: Toothbrushes might not be covered in poop, after all (Gizmodo).

🤔 “Anybody else skip past the ads on google and click the first “real” link to get to a website even if the ad will take you to the same place?” (r/nostupidquestions).

Friday Fun
pacman book 1
Tristan Rayner / Android Authority

Oh man I saw this Pac-Man history book just a little too later to make yesterday’s newsletter, but here it is: an amazing looking Pac-Man history book (h/t The Verge)

Written by Arjan Terpstra and Tim Lapetino, it’s “the first-ever official history book” for the legendary game which is heading towards a 41st birthday this year. 

Here’s the official description:

This new non-fiction narrative volume will journey from creator Toru Iwatani’s “pizza slice” inspiration to the game’s incredible success in arcades and beyond. The book also dives into Pac-Man’s unprecedented impact on pop culture, with more than 40 new interviews from key players around the world, behind-the-scenes stories, documents, images, and more.

pacman book 2
Tristan Rayner / Android Authority

It ships this July, and starts at $39 for the hardcover, and $99 for a special edition with slipcase and vinyl pressing of the single Pac-Man Fever.

Have a great weekend,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor.

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