In 2011, Steven Yang’s laptop battery gave out. Searching online, he couldn’t find a new battery from a third-party supplier with good enough ratings. Instead, he was faced with paying an arm and a leg to buy a battery from the manufacturer. With this problem in mind, Yang created Anker and began developing and selling batteries and chargers through Amazon. Just one year later, the company was profitable and highly regarded by customers. Now, Anker has set its sights on solving bigger problems in the tech and gadget world.
On this week’s interview episode of The Vergecast, Nilay sat down with Yang backstage before Anker’s event in New York City. The two talked about the humble beginnings of Anker, the new products it’s bringing to market, and the many ins and outs of USB-C.
Below is a brief, edited transcript of their conversation about the changing face of USB-C charging.
Steven Yang: With the increasing popularity of gadgets, smartphones, tablets, it was clear that charging has become a problem. Slow charging speed, short battery life, easily broken cables, and so on and so forth. And there’s no great solution to this. So we felt that we could really make a difference, not only through price point and through quality, but through our own innovative technology. That’s why we set up our first R&D center in Shenzhen in May 2012. It was a hell of a journey!
Nilay Patel: So now you’re here, and you have some new products you’re announcing today. You’re announcing a new USB-C power delivery brick that’s very small, 27 watts. And this is something you developed in your research and development center.
Well, partnered with manufacturers of silicon and GaN, gallium nitride.
What is GaN?
GaN is actually a new material. It’s a new semiconductor material that we think is going to replace silicon as the best material to make chargers for the next decades.
Why is that?
We’ve been using silicon to make chargers for the past 40–50 years. They’re helpful, but they operate at a lower frequency, so chargers could not be made smaller. GaN actually operates at a much higher frequency so it basically adapts five to 10, or even more, times every second than silicon does. The result of that is actually a much smaller charger form factor, much less heat being produced, and, ultimately, lower BOM cost.
That’s bill of materials — a lower cost for you and a lower cost for the consumers.
Yes. But I think, initially, what you’re going to see is the small form factor. The lower cost will come several years later when that mass scale is reached.
The Vergecast /
Weekly interviews with major figures from the tech world.