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Charging Stations

Hodaka: charging station

You are out and about and your phone runs out of power – what are your options?

Something you see a lot in Asia but not yet in Europe or the US is public alternatives for charging mobile phones. These photos are taken from a waiting room near Hodaka – a popular hiking/climbing in Japan’s Northern Alps. I watched as a potential customer struggled to operate the machine to charge his phone – 100 Yen (0.70 Euro) for 10 minutes.

In many ways the context of this room made it a perfect place for locating a charging station: a train station waiting room with accurate information on when the train is going to leave; a reason to wait and kill time; seating in proximity of the charging station to make it easier to remember when it comes time to leave and to enable checking that no-one will steal the phone. The last point may seem moot because the phone goes into a drawer and the door is locked – however the casing is pretty flimsy and would not deter a dedicated thief if no-one was around. Do you have any data stored on your phone worth stealing? Even if you don’t now, this question will become more relevant as phones are used to complete a wider range of tasks e.g. mobile payments, and due to the options provided by increased memory space. The context should also provide a steady stream of customers: there was no cellular coverage on the mountain so a mobile phone left switched on the battery rapidly drains as it constantly tries to find the nearest base station; most people were on overnight trips so to keep their weight down they’re not going to carry chargers; there was no where to plug in a charger anyway.

Hodaka: charging station

There are a number of other options available in Japan. Most convenience stores stock ‘top-up’ batteries that plug into the phones power socket. This is a practical alternative in Japan where to a large extent the carrier specifies the power connector – all DoCoMo PDC phones are able to take the same charging/data cable. (Actually the connectors are all slightly different but they are specified to share enough similarities to be able to charge from the same cable. Some enterprising students I met used a knife to shave off the design differences so they could share a power & data cable).

A few solar chargers are for sale in Tokyo Hands, but these are still in the realm of gimmick than a practical alternative.

Other examples I’ve come across in my travels – convenience stores, restaurants and airports in China having charging stations where you clamp a positive and negative charge onto the battery. I’ve never seen anyone actually using these, but I presume that because someone has paid to roll the infrastructure out that its revenue generating.

Fast food restaurants in Delhi supply charging services behind the counter whilst you eat – from recollection they offered 3 x Nokia, 1 x Samsung, 1 x Motorola and one I can’t remember. A colleagues told me about longer distance buses in India offering charging services to passengers. Any other places you’ve seen?