External universal charger fit for Fairphone batteries

[work in progress]

Pre-sermon: What for?

Those who have followed Fairphone for a long time know that the charging port of a Fairphone is – very much like in other smartphones – a neuralgic point. When it doesn’t work, the whole device is soon becoming unusable until it is fixed. We have seen the spare part becoming unavailable and available time and again, sometimes after 1-2 weeks, but more than once, it took months. The FP2 bottom module that includes the charging port was the first spare part that Fairphone had to stop producing. As I am writing this, the FP3 bottom module is temporarily out of stock. We don’t know yet how the completely revamped USB port of the FP4 will work out; its simpler construction might help in securing its permanent availability. Even when the spare part is available, those with a broken charging port might have to wait a couple of days for it to arrive.

There is a way to gap these waiting times: External universal chargers that can charge a Li-Ion battery pack outside of the phone. Unfortunately, they aren’t available at every street corner. In my 250,000-people town, I actually tried in six shops without success the other day (after describing what I was after, one store keeper actually looked at me like I had officially asked him for child porn). Another issue is whether they are actually compatible with (ideally) all four Fairphone battery types (FP1, FP2, FP3, FP4). Specifications found online are often incomplete and leave open decisive details. So while theoretically these devices seem to me like super valuable equipment for Fairphone Angel heavens and local Fairphone communities (to hire out to stranded Fairphoners waiting for their FP-lifesaving bottom module), I guess many of us have been holding out because of the aforementioned uncertainties.

I have now spent a limited sum (25 Euros) from Fairphone Community Aachen’s modest funds to give one of these external chargers a try: The Ansmann Powerline Vario X.
Manual (in Deutsch | English | Français | Italiano | Español | Português | Nederlands) download:
1001-0085_Powerline_Vario_X_Manual-[PRINT].pdf (2.1 MB) or directly from the manufacturer website.

Since I received it yesterday morning, I have been able to try it with all four Fairphone batteries produced since the year 2013. The white, almost squared FP1 battery (2000-2100 mAh), the slimmer charcoal FP2 battery (2420-2440 mAh), the slimmer yet considerably longer FP3 battery (3000-3060 mAh) and of course the latest, more colourful FP4 battery (3900 mAh).

The best thing first:
FP1, FP2, FP3, FP4 batteries … each fits into the charger, and each can be charged in it.

Both the FP3 and the FP4 battery can be charged lying flat inside the charging bay of the Vario X, while the FP1 and FP2 batteries can only be charged standing bottom-down vertically in the bay. It seems to me that charging flat is safer for the batteries because the charging bay size gets adjusted by (probably) some quite strong springs in the big black rectangle next to it. When most the battery rests in the bay, the pressure of the springs gets distributed over a large area, while when the battery stands vertical, almost the whole pressure is against a very small area of the battery (see photos). What helps with the fragile vertical position of the FP1 and FP2 batteries is that the area at the ends of the charger where the batteries touch the charger are rubber-ized (you might spot this in some photos).

Additional explanation

The Vario X has two thin charging pins with a pencil silhouette. These need to get and keep contact with the + and - contacts of the battery. As the location, size and shape of these contacts differ considerably between batteries, the two charging pins can be indidivually moved to the necessary position to match the battery contacts’ position.

I was able to secure the contact between each of the batteries and the charger and even the vertical position remained firm (unless I kept trying to make the position perfectly vertical …).

Now on actual charging performance. First of all, it takes a lot of time to charge a battery this way (see photos below for official estimates). The charger’s display shows charging progress in four steps/blocks: 25%, 50%, 75%, 100% (see first photo). This must not be confused with the battery’s total charging level.

Experience with the four FP batteries (click paragraphs for photos):

Fairphone 1 battery: It took me 3:13 hours to charge it from 28% to 86% (total charging level as indicated in the FP1). When the latter level was reached, the charger had actually shown that 100% charging progress was completed.

Fairphone 2 battery: I didn’t take the time of the charging process, but similarly to the FP1 battery, 100% charging progress according to the charger only translated into 83% total charging level in the FP2.

Fairphone 3 battery: 4:14 hours to take the battery from 49% to 83% total charging level; again: this is after the charger completed the 100% block on the display.

Fairphone 4 battery: 8:07 hours to take the battery from 28% to 81% (100% block reached on the the charger display).

USB-A-to-micro-USB cable included in the Ansmann package

(same type as for standard direct charging of FP1 and FP2)

Charging plug (wall plug, not included in the Ansmann package) used:

iPod USB Power Adapter / Ladestecker (year 2005) Model no. A1102
AC INPUT: 0.15A Max. ADP-5GHA Output : 5V 1.0A
(It seems weird to me that input as given on the outside of the plug is much lower than output, but brighter minds might be able to explain this.)

19 Likes

Very interesting! :+1:

I’m not that bright, but the input is at (120-)230V, so 34,5W max and the output is at 5V, so 5W, probably.
That charger seems rather underpowered for that task :thinking:
Edit: Nevermind, I should have read the spec sheet. Since the external charger doesn’t actually support a higher current, that wall plug should be fine.

The official Fairphone charger for the FP4 can output up to 30W and the FP4 actually charges at up to 18W in my tests.

1 Like

I would welcome if others would report about their experience with other chargers of this kind. One possibility would be the Ansmann Photocam Vario (ships with a wall plug included – the Powerline Vario X only comes with the USB cable) which seems to be the predecessor model and is shown as out of stock, but remaining stocks still seem to be offered in some online shops, sometimes at considerably lower sale price.
If there are any questions regarding the X that I might be able to answer, let me know.

Is it possible to have it in Italy?
I’m looking for something like it from a while
But I’m unable to find it.

Can someone help me?

Well, you will need to check the online stores that are acceptable for you. I don’t want to recommend it, but I briefly checked and Amazon Italy offers both the Ansmann Powerline Vario X and the Ansmann PhotoCam Vario.

yes! I found it!
witch can be better for me (FF3) vario X or PhotoCam?

Thank you

Renato

I am using the Ansmann Powerline Vario (without ‘X’). This charger seems to be identical to Vario X except that a wall plug and car charger was included.
My FP2 batteries won’t charge up to 100% as well - probably due to safety reasons:
This universal chargers only uses 2 connections to the battery - the inner 2 contacts of the battery are unused. The phone might use these contacts for data exchange with the charging controller inside the battery to get information about the charging level, battery temperature and other parameters to allow charging at higher currents or voltage.
Since these informations are missing, the Vario might check the battery voltage to detect a ‘full’ charge and use a lower charging current for safety reasons. Charging probably stops earlier to avoid battery damage.

This charger is perfect if you want to charge batteries abroad; it can be used with a power bank or a solar panel providing a stable current of min. 1A. I mainly use it to charge AA-batteries. It is not a 100% replacement for charging Li-Ion or Li-Po Batteries. Each device or battery-specific charger using all contacts of the battery will do a better job.

4 Likes

It seems to me that the reason for the partial charge is that the charger assumes a nominal voltage of 3.7V max. But the FPx batteries all seem to have 3.85V with a maximum charging voltage of 4.4V in contrast to many cells that only support 4.2V max. So my guess is that the voltage is chosen for safety and it is simply not possible to fully charge a battery that has higher nominal voltage. As a backup, that should be totally fine, though.

6 Likes

I had requested the exact manual for the Powerline Vario X (a printed copy was included in the package) as a PDF from Ansmann at the weekend, and they just delivered. You can download it from my first post (right above the first photo) now. They will also make it available on their website.

2 Likes

I’ve received it! power line varioX)
I’ve already done 2 charge battery cycle, but (I don’t know why) when I put battery on phone, the phone show battery are charged 82% (and Vario X show 100%). The same with both battery (I have two battery)
Do I have to set something?

Thank you

Renato

Renato, I have mentioned this in my first post. See w1900 and mde for plausible explanations.

5 Likes

I can’t find this topic…Can you link me it?

ok, I’ve found and seen it, So, there is no solution? apart from putting the battery vertically instead of horizontally (I did that too :-))?

RENATO

@urs_lesse

These data expresses certain input current values and which (estimated) output result can be expected.
AC Input voltage in Europe can vary between 230V~ and go up to 240V~ depending on the actual grid load.
There are electrical calculation formulas defined for power conversion.

Generally it can be said. High input Voltage (V) takes low input current (A). Converting to a lower output voltage can therefore provide higher output current. It’s not about damaging any device if the output current is higher, but it will be damaged if the output voltage value is not matching the stated device specs (~equal).
That’s theory, things are a bit different looking at what a circuit analyzer measures.

It’s simple for pure DC power. VxA=Power (el. definition are UxI=P)
AC also includes the efficiency factor cos phi (φ); under perfect conditions it equals 1, but nothing is perfect irl.
For AC cases it would be correct to calculate UxIxCosφ=Power
Often the efficiency factor is neglected (not printed on tech spec labels, guess why… :thinking:) but it’s always there. (Think of a tower computers PSU 80% (cos phi 0,8) / 90% (cos phi 0,9); silver or gold standard - that’s about this cosφ) - how much power is taken from your wall socket (paying for at last) will be converted and provided on the other side → DC output. The difference between both sides is loss in form of heat, converting circuitry loss but also intended design and cost limit) :wink:

These days we have so called switching power supplies which are more efficient, but also never can reach an efficiency value of 1.
For comparison, an old fashioned light bulb had an efficiency factor of ~5% (95% heat dissipation) resulting in a cos φ 0,5

@hirnsushi

You do shine coming close to U(230V)xI(0,15A)xCosφ(1)=34,5Watts
Remember, nothing is perfect irl, only a circuit analyzer can state realistic conditions and cosφ hardly can be 1.
After the internal conversion circuitry done its magic it’s designed to provide ideally 5V DC output with max. 1A. So you only get ~5 Watts output although the adapter may take in up to ~35 Watts if your device is heavy load. This should give an idea of the true efficiency factor here…

2 Likes

FYI, as written in another thread, I use an Pixo C2+ since years which worked for all Li-Io battery types I tried but is out of production. I just stubled across Universal-Akku-Ladegerät - USB | WattGeizer.com - energiesparende Produkte which seems to be an improved successor, but I could not figure out brand and model name. I really like the possibility to load a replacement battery of any device in the hotel room, car, tent,… while freely using the device.

4 Likes

Given the discount price of just 5 € (excl. shipping), I was a bit hesitant to bring this up, but I guess if anyone wants to give it a try, a bit more choice cannot hurt. Note: I only just found this while looking for something completely different, I have no experience with it:

DÖRR TC-2 980342 Kamera-Ladegerät Passender Akku LiIon, LiPo, NiMH

2 Likes

I think it would be really useful if you guys would sell external battery chargers which can be used to charge battery’s outside of the phone so you can hot swap the battery when one is empty. This way your phone will never be empty or will ever have to be wired :smiley:

Please see above. i would never use this ,instead I use magnetic charging cables (to avoid the stress on the port and a Power Bank as I dont want to open the phone daily (multiple times in worst case)

Else using the search function reveals

https://forum.fairphone.com/search?context=topic&context_id=81652&q=external%20charger&skip_context=true

Btw this is a user forum, so we dont sell anything :wink:

3 Likes