In an interview last week, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau told me that his next so-called “ultraflagship” phone — which we all know will be the OnePlus 8 Pro — will indeed support wireless charging. It will be a first for a OnePlus phone and it sounds like it will be impressive, able to charge up a phone by 50 percent in just thirty minutes.
At its peak speed, OnePlus’ wireless charging system will operate at 30W, significantly faster than the usual wireless charging available for Samsung phones or iPhones. Other Chinese manufacturers are also making fast wireless chargers. Xiaomi has released a 30W wireless charging stand. Oppo — which has a relationship with OnePlus — is expected to announce a phone with 40W wireless charging the day before the OnePlus 8 Pro is announced.
OnePlus’ system will of course be proprietary to OnePlus phones, though Lau says he’d be open to licensing it to other companies. OnePlus wasn’t ready to reveal the charger’s pricing last week, but it’s safe to assume it’ll cost more than average. “The cost of materials is certainly higher than what we could expect for most traditional Qi chargers,” Lau says, “but we’ve done what we can to make the price of the charger as reasonable as possible.”
Speaking of Qi, OnePlus’ phone and charger will both be compatible, so you’ll be able to charge your phone at more traditional Qi speeds on the pads you already own.
Lau says that before now, “the issue of [charging speed] not being up to the expectation that we have with wired charging” is the reason he hasn’t included wireless charging in a phone before. Cranking the wattage up to 30 certainly solves that problem, but it creates a very obvious new one: heat.
There are two ways to solve the heat problem. The first is the most obvious one: a fan on the wireless charger itself. It’s not the first time a wireless charger has had a fan, but this one will be doing a lot of work. Lau says it could get as loud as 30db — which is still fairly quiet but could become annoying on your nightstand. There will be an option on the phone for a night mode, which will keep the fan off at night — and also reduce charging speeds.
But the main way the charging speed gets to 30W is by changing around the traditional Amps x Volts = Watts equation. In this case, the voltage has been increased to 20V (with amps at 1.5), much higher than normal for wireless charging. Then, inside the phone itself, there are “isolated charge pumps” wired in a series that reduce the voltage back down to something that’s safe to pump into the battery.
Lau says the system is also more efficient at transferring energy than other wireless chargers, which means less energy is lost to — you guessed it — heat.
Finally, the most important part of the whole system is that the phone and the charger are in communication about charge state. If things are getting too hot, the charger can reduce its output.
OnePlus calls the system “Warp Charge 30 Wireless,” which is a counterpart to its proprietary wired Warp Charge system. The wired system will remain the same. (Interestingly, the wired way works that equation in the opposite direction, with a 5V/6A system.)
If you’re familiar with OnePlus, you might know that it has a strange relationship with another Chinese phone maker, Oppo. Both are divisions of the same, larger company, BBK Electronics. Lau has in the past denied that OnePlus is a subsidiary of Oppo. Whatever the corporate machinations, it’s undeniable that much of OnePlus’ tech is derivative of Oppo’s. Oppo said it had developed a 30W wireless charging system last year, and a patent associated with it shows that it works identically to the system Lau described to me.
When I asked OnePlus whether and how its technology differs from Oppo’s, a spokesperson said:
OnePlus works with OPPO on some contract manufacturing and key technology implementation, such as bringing a fast wireless charging solution to the ultra-premium option of the 8 Series. On Warp Charge 30 Wireless, OnePlus made a number of optimizations to ensure more responsive and efficient communication between the phone and the charger.
Beyond wireless charging, there are plenty of leaked and rumored specs for the OnePlus 8 Pro, including a 120Hz display, Snapdragon 865 processor, 5G, and reverse wireless charging.
OnePlus has confirmed that it will hold a launch event for the 8 series phones on April 14th. That event will obviously be online-only. I asked Lau how the pandemic is affecting his company, and he said that OnePlus is trying to take “every measure we can take for our teams,” but that he doesn’t think “this situation will impact our ability to have a product launch” or that it would be “a large impact on our business, long term.”