Three years ago, I had no idea what Chargie was going to become – world’s #1 phone battery protection system. I knew the basic principles of charge limiting and the positive outcomes it has on battery health, but at that point in 2019 they were only theoretical, or based on what others had studied.
Now, there are over 27,000 Chargie devices out there and countless testimonials of people using it and telling us (publicly or over email) how Chargie had changed the entire course of their battery life and how it saved them money, time and effort.
For those of you who’ve been using the Chargie app on iOS, you know that there’s a 15-minute delay from the moment you plug it in to the moment the Chargie device actually starts managing the connection. Sometimes it’s shorter, sometimes it’s longer. But that’s the way it was until today.
Generally, this works out just fine – the phone is going to stay connected to the charger for more than that. And it generally works well if you don’t want the app to show up every time you plug your phone.
But today I received an email from Chargie user Dirk in Germany who found out another way of starting the Chargie app by using the automations present in iOS’s Shortcuts app.
I won’t embed any screenshots except for the Shortcuts app because they’d clutter the post a lot. The following guide is pretty straightforward (adapted from Dirk’s email):
– open the Shortcuts app
– go to Automation (in the middle at the bottom)
– click on “+” in the upper right corner
– select “Create Personal Automation”
– scroll down and tap on “Charger”
– “When charger is attached” (left side) should be selected
– press “Next” in the upper right corner
– select “Is Connected”, then Next
– select “Add Action”
– select “Scripting”
– select “Open App”
– tap on the word “App” in the “open app” text field
– select “Chargie – phone charge limiter”
– click on “Next” in the upper right
– deselect “Ask before running”
– click on “Done” in the upper right
This way, every time you plug your phone, the Chargie app gets brought up to the front and the connection is immediate.
Thank you, Dirk Drews (https://dirk-drews.de), for the tip, and hope you have a wonderful time with your Chargie device!
For the past three years, I’ve been preaching to people to not fully charge their phones, or do it as rarely as possible. Well, all this time it seemed obvious to me (and some other battery-obsessed freaks) that you also shouldn’t let your phone discharge to 0, because it also causes harm to the battery (maybe even more than briefly letting it go to full).
Aside our phones, most of us have a multitude of battery-powered devices laying around… not really using battery, but plugged in all the time.
After a while, that Bluetooth speaker, smart radio, smart watch, drone, your kids’ LEGO battery pack or even flash light… will not have the same battery it did when it was new. That’s because they’ve been kept plugged in A LOT. Which sucks, if you ask me, because it shouldn’t be like that – you should just plug them and they should stay healthy, since you don’t have to worry when to unplug each and every device you have around your home.
When you start manufacturing with no experience in manufacturing whatsoever, you have to learn from others and invent. And not be afraid to change the design when it makes sense. You want to make things happen, no matter how bad they might come out at first.
There are some people who might object to this point of view, but that’s the way it happens on so many levels, simply because every little thing you do requires experimentation and money, which all take time. And time is the only resource you have, really. Take a look at Tesla and compare their 2007 product with the newest Model 3 (different scales, I know, but the same phenomenon).
On the other hand, when Chargie started growing, other possibilities came along. Like it’s the case with our new resin printer, the Anycubic Mono X.
About resin printing
Resin printing is the culmination of technology advances in 2021, as far as I can see. The fact that it just became affordable is even more wonderful.
Basically, from bottom to top, you just have an UV lamp, a monochrome 4K LCD screen, a resin recipient with a very transparent bottom and an aluminum platform that goes up 0.05mm at a time with each layer. The 4K LCD opens and shuts its pixels according to the current layer’s image (you can compare this to a CT scanner’s image).
The result is that parts come out at hugely higher speed, since it doesn’t matter if you only do one or if you do 80 pieces at a time, the layer’s exposure time is the same (about 2 seconds).
The fun fact is that the parts come out with an outstanding quality. You can extrude text that only has 2mm height, you can do a lot of things you really can’t do with classic FDM printers, with 30 times more speed (only depends on the screen’s size). Your parts don’t bend, don’t melt at 50 degrees Celsius and are not flammable. And you can use a neutral base resin (transparent or opaque white) which you can colour to your liking, and you get translucent or opaque parts. Very neat.
The not to fun fact is that the resin is more expensive than PLA filament, that you have to wash the resulting parts with isopropyl alcohol for 10 minutes, then expose them to sunlight (or a UV lamp) for another couple of minutes on each side, to perform a final curing of the resin. All in all, the entire process is much messier than FDM but again, the resulting pieces’ quality is outstanding.
When things go bad, though, you’ve just lost 80 half-cases and almost half a kilo of resin, which is quite a lot (the one below just happened as I was writing this and the resin from the vat finished, leaving some of the parts incomplete).
Starting out small
At first, Chargie’s cases were made out of heat-extruded PLA at about 200 oC. If you do it slowly, the parts come out very nicely, but you need to go slooooow. Which is not an option for even small-batch production processes, or you need dozens of printers doing the same thing and eating a huge amount of energy. And you can’t have layer heights of just 0.05mm like you do in resin printing, since the layers are really printed one at a time.
The advantage, though, is that you can change your mind whenever you feel like, and you don’t have to spend a fortune on new plastic molds. They DO NOT come cheap (5-figure numbers), and can only be made by specialist engineers, pose very high quality issues when they don’t make them well and you really don’t have any control over their quality until the next batch, thus making the feedback very delayed and so 20th century. On the other hand, 3D-printing, whichever flavour you choose, is very flexible and its quality is all under control, with bearable quirks (I’m talking about FDM, because resin’s quality is already outstanding and can be compared to top-notch plastic casing).
So for a startup in 2021, resin-based 3D printing is the only way out of this issue with the least amount of investment.
Serving the purpose
For Chargie, which is a device that most of the time sits hidden under a bed, casing quality is not functionally important – it has to be there to give the device mechanical sturdiness, but otherwise I thought FDM printing is a good tradeoff between price and quality.
The visual qualities of a product are, on the other hand, the ones that impress most, and I can say it loud now that I’ve never looked back at PLA printing once I started doing resin.
Chargie is now ready for medium volume production. 2021’s chip crisis is another big hit on production from Lighty Electronics to Tesla and Samsung, but that’s a story for another post.
I’ve built the Chargie system from the ground up as a means to save battery lifespan by limiting the time your phone stays at high charge levels. It is working, and we have numerous reports of very satisfied customers whose phones did not go to rubble, but still continue to work great after a long time.
However, life is not ideal and there are circumstances when you really need that 100% for the next day. Up until now, you just had to set Chargie to go to 100%, and the app would cut it there and act upon the hysteresis you set (Allowed Charge Drop). It’s a pretty good method, but in the meantime, looking at real needs, I decided it’s not the very best, since you still keep the battery “up there” for the whole night (even if it’s discharging).
And, if you’re the unlucky person whose battery capacity has already been going south for a while, you’ll be emptying it well before you can plug in during the day, which would make using Chargie a nuisance, not an advantage. This would take it into a lower than 20% state of charge sometime in the afternoon, which creates heat and makes things even worse for it.
Apple has sniffed this realm since iOS13 and has done something good, in theory – keep the battery at 80% for the night and only top it up in the morning, before you wake up. It sometimes works. Because their algorithm attempts to “learn” your routine – if you have one. If you don’t, you’ll rely on their AI guesswork and you may wake up with only 80% in the morning or your phone may stay at 100% all night – and you won’t know, won’t you?
So here’s my proposal: I implemented a feature in Chargie that allows you to set up a time when you want your phone to start topping up. Essentially, you can keep the battery somewhere in the midrange – 50 or 60% – during the night, without any stress on it whatsoever, and if you wake up at 7am you can set the Top Up Scheduler for 6:15am (depending on your charger).
The Top Up Scheduler’s limit value is also configurable from Settings – so if you’d rather wake up with 90%, you can keep the phone at 50 for the night and only top it up to 90 before you wake up, very flexibly. This is way, way better than holding it up at 90% for the whole night, like it was so far possible.
For now, the time estimation is yours to make, but I’ll work on something more automatic in the following period. However, it will not resemble Apple’s, because it’s going to be something much better – no algorithm can predict your maybe hectic schedule more accurately than you. Charging times can be forecast, though. And so can your phone’s alarms be read and interpreted, if you use them. But it’s ultimately you who should be in control, not a “magic,” fully automated process.
The Top Up Scheduler is available right now in Beta version, under the Beta channel on Google Play – so if you want to experiment something new, go ahead and join the beta on the same Play page where you downloaded the app.
I would like to thank all of you who asked for this feature along the way and those who helped debug everything so far.
We, as a species, have evolved by eventually setting ourselves on top of the entire food chain. Nevertheless, the days of wandering for food with our empty bellies still haunt us genetically and that may be the reason why we sometimes make irrational decisions as to whether we actually need to have our supplies full or not: electric car battery, refrigerator, gas tank, stomach and our phone battery.
The scenario is simple:
Joe wakes up. He takes a look at his phone, it’s 7am. Battery is at 75%, because he used Chargie to stop it.
Joe eats his breakfast, sips some coffee while browsing through some news and his Facebook feed, maybe some e-mails. Battery goes down to 70%.
Joe drives or takes the subway or bus to work, maybe he uses the power-hungry Waze, or scrolls through his Facebook feeds. Battery drops to 50%. At this level, the phone doesn’t get very hot because the internal resistance hasn’t dropped much yet, the battery has about 3.7V (ideal).
He places his phone on the wireless charging pad at work. The pad also has a Chargie attached before it, so Joe’s Chargie app on the phone detects that it’s being charged, tests the power line, decides that it’s not the home charger, and looks for the work charger. After blinking the power a few times, it connects and quietly recharges the phone to 65%
Joe uses his phone throughout the day, the battery oscillates maybe between 40% and 60%, but is stopped every time it reaches 65. Battery degradation: almost zero.
After work, Joe gets back home. Before leaving work, he pumps some more power into the phone by setting Chargie to 70%.
So maybe he goes to a bar, maybe he picks up his wife or kids from somewhere, it gets late.
Joe goes to sleep at about 11pm. His battery, in its high 30s, is still giving him enough power without having been stressful throughout the day.
Cycle repeats. Battery lasts forever without a hitch. Joe only takes it to 100% on occasion, which is by far less damaging than otherwise keeping it there all the time with no practical purpose.
So what’s the catch, you may ask.
Had Joe not used Chargie, the battery would’ve been at 100% or in its high 80s or 90s all day long. After a year, Joe’s battery would’ve started to die on him on long journeys or at times when he’d needed that phone. Joe would’ve been unhappy.
By only taking the charge to 70% or 60% or the lowest usable value for the day, Joe still has enough power in it and he’ll be able to use his phone at full capacity and speed for a much longer time. Should he decide to buy a new phone, the old one would still have a long fight until becoming technologically obsolete.
Joe is happy and so is the planet, because you know, recycling and reusing more are closely linked to lowered pollution levels of all kinds. And Joe’s battery is still at some 95% capacity after 5 years of usage. In a perfectly functioning phone, after an absurd amount of usage.
Bottom line: you don’t need a 100% charged phone if you work in an office where it sits on a charger all day long, anyway.
This practice just degrades your battery and the old 100% is not the same 100% after a while. The battery starts to get hot, the phone runs slower to prevent further damage by overheating, and after a year and a half you end up selling it for nothing or taking it to a repair shop. And buy a new, glorious phone that does about the same stuff the old one did, but faster – mostly because its new battery can still do it.
Wireless chargers have been widely adopted lately due to their ability to ease the charging process.
They’re useful, but nevertheless much more power inefficient because the inductive method used loses power through… heat.
And heat is the worst enemy when we talk about battery longevity. If you introduce heat in the equation of a battery’s lifespan, you will slash a good deal of that phone’s life.
That’s why I don’t normally recommend wireless chargers, but…
Since you’re using a Chargie, part of that heat gets dissipated through the fact that Chargie monitors battery temperature constantly and you can set it to charge only when the battery isn’t warm.
Even more, because Chargie’s allowed discharge property in Settings, the battery gets to cool down before receiving a final shot of power in the morning.
These actions, overall, will greatly improve the lifespan of a battery subjected to wireless charging.
Starting with version 1.19.00, Chargie now has a “Using wireless charging” option and a configurable delay. You can play with that to accommodate any type of charger and the connection delays it introduces while the autoconnect function is doing its thing, when you put the phone on the charging pad.
Get your Chargie at https://chargie.org. You might as well get a very discounted Family Pack, so all your current and future phones are protected against premature battery aging.
It’s exactly a year since I’ve sketched the first Chargie schematic. I can’t believe it went so fast!
Today I’ve compiled version 1.18.06 of the app, the best so far. Now Chargie can do much more than it could back in May when version 1.0.0 came out.
I remember the first customer at Maker Faire Vienna in May – he was a very young dude, saying he’d dreamed about such a device for years – that’s what’s truly fulfilling about inventing and making stuff.
Knowing that your creation will enter people’s homes, will satisfy their needs, that some of them will be actively involved in the very core of your product’s development with their original ideas, is something few people experience in their lifetime.
It’s been an honor knowing you all from around the world. We’ve sold more than 1300 Chargies on every inhabited continent, in most of the countries where there’s a smartphone.
It’s been a good time – with real feedback, as deserved – good or bad.
Let 2020 be a year of progress for this project and let batteries live well for your entire phones’ lives.
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