TI readies recharger-on-a-chip

Texas Instruments Inc. has announced a new line of chips that can combine battery-recharging capabilities for portable devices with a USB port, enabling smaller, less expensive, and more versatile gadgets.

The new BqTiny II batter rechargers are intended for use in such portable devices as cell phones, personal digital assistants, wireless headsets, and cameras. They are available in large volume now to manufacturers. TI expects cameras, PDAs, and phones containing BqTiny IIs to become available this summer.

Updated Portability

As the II in the name indicates, this is the second generation of BqTiny chips. Like the original BqTiny rechargers, the new ones put all of the logic needed for lithium-ion and lithium-polymer recharging onto a single, 3mm-by-3mm chip. Manufacturers can easily incorporate the chip into any portable, battery-operated gadget.

Texas Instruments announced the first generation of BqTiny rechargers last summer. According to a TI representative, about “half a dozen” companies are currently selling products with BqTiny chips in them. “Dozens of others” have something in the design stage, according to the company. TI would not release the names of any of the vendor firms that are preparing to use the chip in products.

Choice of AC, USB

Because the BqTiny II adds USB support, users will be able to plug a camera or PDA that uses the new chip into a PC and recharge it while downloading photos or data. Recharging over a USB port isn’t entirely new. Logitech’s Pocket Digital cameras have offered that capability for months.

But TI’s single chip should make the solution easier and cheaper for manufacturers, and could make the capability more common in products.

What’s more, the chip supports conventional AC power as well. If you don’t have a PC handy, you can plug your BqTiny II-equipped device into a wall socket via a conventional AC adapter. According to Texas Instruments representatives, the chip will be able to identify the power source and process it appropriately.

In fact, TI says the BqTiny II is sophisticated enough to tell the difference between a USB connection where the host (such as a PC) is plugged into a wall socket and one when the host is running on batteries, and will behave accordingly.