A subjective view of the current state of affairs in one of the most painful aspects of modern gadgets from the editor of The Verge. Is there any hope for a brighter future without having to constantly look for an outlet / power bank?
This article is not an investment one, and I do not give advice on investment issues. However, here's my free funding advice: If a company mass-produces a new kind of safe, practical, affordable, reliable and durable battery for digital devices, buy stock. In great numbers. Batteries are the key components of the devices we now depend on, especially smartphones and laptops. Unfortunately, they are also the weak link of this system.
Some users note that they cannot get even a full day of work from their gadgets on a single charge. Others manage to reach this level, but for this you have to try. Many are forced to look for power outlets or carry expensive and bulky cases with a built-in battery and external batteries (which, by the way, also need to be charged) to power their light and graceful iPhone or Galaxy. This problem has bypassed devices with monochrome screens, however, apart from the glimpse of unpretentious Kindle readers Amazon, I cannot name an acute, really popular digital device with such a long battery life that you don't even have to think about it.
Weak link in the system
Compared to the race of features, speed and versatility of smartphones, battery life is increasing at a much slower pace. For example, last year, during the announcement of the A8 processor in iPhone 6, Apple boasted that compared to the first smartphone in 2007, the processor speed increased 50 times, and the GPU speed increased 84 times. That said, the improvements in battery life on a single charge over the past eight years have not been impressive at all. According to the manufacturer, the first one iPhone could 'live' from charging to charging 8 hours of talk time and 6 hours of Internet operation. For iPhone 6s these figures are 14 and 11 hours, respectively. There is an obvious improvement, but its indicators are less than two times.
Of course, optimists will look at these indicators and justifiably begin to express their admiration for the fact that the latest, most technically advanced devices are capable of delivering better results in terms of battery life than their predecessors. And you can't compare these numbers, because over these eight years there have been significant changes in the operation of telephone networks and the very understanding of working on the Internet is already fundamentally different from the paradigm of 2007.
Component from 1991
Even so, current devices still use variations of the lithium-ion battery that Sony launched into commercial production in 1991. The technology has undoubtedly been improved, but the increase in battery 'life' before the next charge is the result of the creation and use of more energy efficient hardware and software. And so far there is no new and better alternative to lithium-ion batteries. Experts believe that you shouldn't hold your breath for her appearance. Jay Whitacre, PhD and battery expert at Carnegie Melon University in Pittsburgh: “Lithium-ion batteries will dominate for at least a few more years. The existing set of solutions will prevent companies from increasing their technology budgets. '
No recessions, no breakouts
“We have to learn to use new materials,” Whitacre said, referring to the internal structure of the battery. While researchers are actually experimenting with new materials, no one has yet been able to create a practical and market-ready product that will dramatically improve the battery life of smartphones and laptops. At least, judging by publicly known facts, the technology that would allow charging gadgets once a week is not yet available and is not expected in the near future.
The fact is that improving the energy efficiency of batteries is fundamentally different from the path taken by manufacturers to develop semiconductors – the development of more efficient solutions that take up as little physical space as possible. The problem with batteries lies in the fundamentals of chemistry and physics. Dr. Doron Maersdorf, CEO of Israel's StoreDot battery problem: “Take a look at the periodic table and you can see that you can only work with a limited number of cells.” Moore's Law, which states that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles every two years, does not apply to batteries.
Among specialists working on the problem, there is an opinion that there are no significant breakthroughs or recessions in the course of technology development. This means that battery life will remain a sore point for users, especially for those in places with poor network coverage, because the constant search for a network consumes battery power very much. New technologies, such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence, as they develop, may face limitations precisely in terms of the battery life of devices.
Changes in psychology
Some companies, while admitting that there is a problem with the current state of affairs, still focus on something else, namely, on reducing the time required for charging. The idea is to change consumer psychology. Anxiety about charge percentage can be greatly alleviated by giving people the confidence to be able to recharge in a short amount of time. Samsung, for example, has launched a fast-charge charger for its new smartphones that can charge these devices from zero to 50% in half an hour. Pencil stylus can be connected to iPad Pro for 15 seconds for 30 minutes of work. And Qualcomm is equipping its chipsets and processors with Quick Charge technology, which charges supported devices up to four times faster than conventional charging.
But perhaps the most significant contribution is made by the already mentioned company StoreDot. According to company representatives, they managed to rethink both the battery itself and the charger, creating a system from new “organic” materials that can charge a smartphone for an entire working day in a matter of minutes.
Last year, at CES, StoreDot presented a prototype that could charge a smartphone in a minute for 6-7 hours of operation. I repeat, in a minute. The company's products – FlashBattery and FlashCharger – will appear at the next CES. Doron Myersdorf promises that this time the company will present a version of the device that can charge a smartphone for 8-10 hours of operation in five minutes. Why have the characteristics changed? Myersdorf explains this by the need to negotiate the use of StoreDot batteries and chargers with smartphone manufacturers, for this a special connector is required. And last year's charger prototype looked more like a bulky case. The decision was made to reduce the size of the charger, making it more attractive to the partner, but sacrificing charging time. The new design is more like a cradle that plugs into an outlet and uses a special connector to connect to the device.
Five minutes for a full day of device operation already sounds like an incredible breakthrough, capable of making smartphone users forget about their worries about battery percentage. In any case, it is much easier to stand at an outlet in an airport terminal for five minutes than to occupy it for an hour or more. However, StoreDot does not yet have a partner among manufacturers, and even if there is one, any new battery system will require additional costs for organizing production and will have to overcome certain barriers in terms of regulation. Myersdorf laments that the process is taking longer than desired. Even so, the company hopes to launch the system as part of a smartphone to the market in early 2017.
Many manufacturers of mobile electronics are trying in one way or another to solve the most pressing problem of gadgets today. I do not wait with bated breath, the speed of development of technology leaves much to be desired.
Original article by Walt Mossberg
Elir: most users of devices based on Android are painfully familiar with the problem described in the material. It seems that there are energy-saving modes that are somehow included by manufacturers in various devices, like third-party software promises to improve autonomy, however, every day we have to power our gadgets, in some cases – two or three times a day. In his article, the author gives us a little hope for a possible shift forward in solving the problem, albeit dubious, but impressive in its promises. I caught myself thinking that I actually became calmer about the percentage of the charge after switching to a charger with Quick Charge support. However, the percentage of users with such accessories is not that great yet, and the remaining mass of users will not forget about the problem so soon. In the comments, I propose to share my scenario for working with devices in terms of saving battery power.