Anker PowerCore 10K Wireless

I’ve been an Anker fanboy for a while, so when Anker reached out asking if I’d test the PowerCore 10K Wireless I couldn’t say yes fast enough. But let me level with you- I’m not entirely sold on Wireless charging.

Back in March 2019 I bought an Anker Charge Pad and an Anker Charge Stand fully intending to embrace the wireless revolution and have these set up on our bedside tables to charge phones and peripherals. Where are they now? In a drawer. Why? Well I can’t ever seem to put my phone down, at least not for long enough to let it charge wirelessly. My usual setup is a 50W Power Delivery wall adapter (yes, also Anker brand) that charges my iPhone X at something like 35W to 80% in about half an hour. Wireless can’t touch that. Perhaps the real killer was that my favourite phone case has metal and magnets in it through which a wireless charger wont work- taking my case off to charge my phone really knocks a hole in the convenience factor.

So the wireless chargers are still in a drawer, and I’ll sit in bed with my phone plugged in, cable awkwardly routed off to one side… then in a year I’ll wonder why the cable has worn out and hit Anker with a two-star review on Amazon to complain about it. To their credit they stand by their products and reached out to me asking for the cable serial number and more details of my issue. They then had a replacement shipped promptly.

The PowerCore 10K Wireless is, as you might guess from the name, a 10,000mAh battery with both USB and Wireless charging capabilities. Functionally it doesn’t really differ from a standalone wireless charger, offering 5W (known colloquially as SLOW AF) of charging capacity wirelessly. Where it sets itself apart is convenience. One of the many issues I had with the wireless chargers that I consigned to the drawer is that they were never where I needed them to be. Moving a mains-powered wireless charger from one room to another requires moving the plug, the cable and the charger- at this point you might just as well plug a lightning to USB cable into any handy computer USB port. Moving the Anker PowerCore Wireless, however, requires just unplugging it, slipping it into your pocket, and taking it out on the go. That’s handy.

Indeed you can pick the Powercore 10K Wireless up and carry it around while it continues to charge your phone, and even hold the battery behind your phone while you continue to use it. This is something I often try to do with wires sticking out of the bottom of my phone and it inevitably and invariably leads to them wearing out and failing.

And, yes, the PowerCore Wireless can stay plugged in on your nightstand for overnight charging of not only the internal battery itself, but additionally your phone. Since wireless charging is limited to 5W the current draw is miniscule enough (1A at 5V) that most decent wall chargers will happily supply enough power both to charge the battery and keep the wireless circuitry chooching. Thankfully Anker have noticed this and fixed what’s perhaps one of the more annoying problems with portable batteries… not being able to, uh, charge while you charge? The slow 5W trickle of a wireless charge is still plenty to charge your phone overnight, though, and means the PowerCore Wireless is a one-stop pick-up-and-go solution for wired/wireless charging.

Alas if you want to charge your AirPods too you’re going to need to put them on before your phone, or charge them on the go. There’s just the one wireless charging pad, and the USB ports are shut off while the battery is charging. I still think there’s the potential for USB pass-through though and I wish it would appear on more products. My dream charger would, perhaps, be charged using USB Type-C Power Delivery at 60W and have enough power to run its ports at full pelt while the battery charges… I think most people call this dream device a laptop.

Counting somewhat against wireless charging in a portable device is the nature of wireless efficiency. Claims of efficiency aren’t well documented because, frankly, most people don’t really care. Claims of low efficiency for wired charging appear to be sponsored and endorsed by wireless proponents, and broadly vice versa. Don’t worry about it too much. Still, most finger-in-the-air, gut-feeling estimates of how wireless stacks up to wired charging in the real world generally place wireless as the less effienct of the two so as a rule of thumb I’d suggest that the PowerCore 10K Wireless will have less endurance when wirelessly charging your phone, versus charging over a wire. But, hey, my phone battery is less than a third that capacity and as long as I get one or two complete charges on the go… I don’t care.

Note: wireless charging is a funny thing with respect to efficiency, particularly when talking about coils run from mains power adapters. The step-down transformer responsible for converting your 240V (or 120V, or 230V? or.. aaahh) mains supply to 5V, or 19.8V or 12V involves two wire coils that- you guessed it- are not physically connected. While their size and position can be decidedly more optimised than that in your phone and a wireless charger, the concept of a step down transformer using two wire coils is analagous to wireless charging. Now if you factor in that transformer, plus the one between the pad and your phone you’ve suddenly got *two* wireless induction stages happening in one charger. Now stick 240V through your wireless charging pad, and put the other half of that transformer in your phone with perfect distance and alignment… is that conceptually more efficienct than using a wire prone to voltage drop? Mind blown. And probably your fuse breaker, too.

The Anker PowerCore 10K Wireless represents a decidedly more convenient grab-and-go take on wireless charging that inadvertently (or, deliberately) fixes the problem of not being able to charge your phone from your portable battery while you charge the portable battery. Its heft (obviously, it’s got a big battery in it) also keeps it firmly in place on a surface so its not quite so prone to being lost down the back of a cabinet like much, much lighter (I swear those things are empty) wireless charging pads. The ability to run it like a regular table-top wireless charger and then grab it and your phone – both fully charged – to take out on the go is a killer feature, and the fact it still works if you forget your lightning cable could be a life-saver (maybe even literally.)

Unfortunately the wireless charging is not quite perfect. Presumably due to not having a constant source of power to allow the coils to be permenantly energised, you must press the on button on the battery to start wireless charging. This sounds fair enough, but can very quickly become a nuisance if you grab your phone to check something and hold it long enough for the charging to shut off. To avoid accidental presses the button is pretty small and flush with the external case, this has the side effect of making it tricky to find and press. When connected to a mains charger, however, the coil is continuously energised, which is just as well because it would be infuriating otherwise.

Where the PowerCore Wireless falls flat is where it falls flat. Or, to put it another way, many people like a desktop charging setup to keep their phone upright for easy viewing of incoming notifications, a convenient location for video calls, and so on and so forth. The Anker PowerCore Wireless can’t stand your phone upright on its own, and I think Anker missed a trick by not including (or selling separately) a moulded plastic foot to transform it into an upright phone charger.

But hey, it’s 2020- current year argument- and we have The Technology!

Turning the portable, wireless battery back into a dock…

The upright dock idea appealed to me, despite the fact I usually leave my phone flat on the desk, so I used an Ikea Bergenes to mock one up.

Unfortunately my 3D modelling skills leave much to be desired, but Raspibotics leapt to my rescue and started cranking out pure awesomeness.

With help from RabidInventor to man the 3D printers – since I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to these infernal machines – Raspibotics’ design was turned into a real physical prototype in… oh about 5-6 hours.

And, despite being something of a tight fit and needing a number of refinements the concept was taking shape and threatening to actually work.

The design has since been refined to use less material, accomodate the battery better, lock the charging cable in place and get a better print on the threads. We did this all over Twitter with a bit of back-and-forth and it was pretty fun.

I haven’t had chance to 3D print another prototype yet, but here’s a quick and dirty 3D orbit of the main dock.

With any luck we’ll get another print of this soon, iron out the remaining kinks and Raspibotics will be able to share the design files for others to print and iterate upon. Anker are the kind of company I’d really love to see interact more with makers, since they… well… have the power! Hopefully projects like this will catch their attention. *wink wink nudge nudge*

In the mean time… you’d better pick up an Anker Powercore Wireless 10K so you’re ready to build your own little upright dock. Ha!