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Cellphones Power Technology

Growing Power Gap Could Force Smartphone Tradeoffs 246

alphadogg writes "Mobile users face a fast-growing gap between their smartphones' increasing power needs and battery capacity. That gap could force users to make tradeoffs in how, and for what, they use their phones, even as vendors at all levels work even harder to reduce power demand in mobile devices, according to Chris Schreck, a research analyst with IMS Research. Schreck estimates that a 1500 mAh battery, the industry's current 'high water mark,' yields for many smartphone users a battery life of about 6 hours — highly dependent on what applications and on-device technologies, including Wi-Fi, users are running. The latest and greatest tech advances, including faster CPUs, higher data throughput, and improved displays all crank up the demand for power. The combination of user behavior and technology is boosting power demand faster than battery capacity can keep up. Schreck estimates power requirements can grow 15% a year."
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Growing Power Gap Could Force Smartphone Tradeoffs

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  • by ShadowRangerRIT ( 1301549 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @02:43PM (#29583843)
    There's not that much power to be had in your pocket. Even self-winding watches rely on the swinging of your arms to generate power, and they're doing a hell of a lot less with it. The generation machinery itself would also take up space and add weight; you'd be better off increasing the size of the battery.
  • by ShadowRangerRIT ( 1301549 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @02:50PM (#29583933)

    I know nothing about quantum well diodes, but the screens are already LED on virtually all smart phones. And their power draw would be negligible when not in use, so I doubt they have much of an influence. Pushing computing out of the phone wouldn't save much; the cost of maintaining an active connection to the network at all times would be substantially higher than the small gains made from using a lower power chip (the chips are already fairly low power). Keep in mind, there would still need to be *a* chip to do the work of maintaining the network connection and drawing to the screen; if it's just bitmap copies, then you need a lot of network communication (and possibly decompression work), if it's drawing primitives, you need more drawing capability to turn them into screen images.

    Many of the more powerful apps are already in the cloud, there's not that much left to push out.

  • by IDtheTarget ( 1055608 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:12PM (#29584199)
    No, but you can bring an external battery pack [] or use a battery sleeve [], which amounts to the same thing.
  • by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:19PM (#29584287) Homepage Journal

    This little device from Thinkgeek gets around that problem- a spare battery that charges just about anything with the right dongle: []

  • by Orange Crush ( 934731 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:32PM (#29584429)

    I feel there already is a tradeoff. I have an iPhone 3GS, and I know that if I surf the internet or play games for 3-4 hours I'll all but kill the battery. A 2 hour bike ride with the GPS turned on and my route-tracking app running will suck nearly 50% of the battery life from it.

    You can get one of these [], or a try a more do-it-yourself option []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:34PM (#29584453)

    Except that "just USB" won't do. You need a driver on the computer or a special cable with the right resistors on the right pins or some other hackery to get newer iPod/iPhone devices to charge from that 5V. Oh, and the regular cord that it comes with isn't enough. Irritating as hell.

  • by zmollusc ( 763634 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:59PM (#29584763)

    Way back in the time of analogue mobile phones I had a nokia whose battery pack was six AA sized Ni-Cad cells. All the phones I have had over the last 6 years have had batteries the size of a wafer-thin mint and, by staggering coincidence, short operating times.
    Making the phone twice as thick would give you approx 1000% more room for the battery.

  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @04:10PM (#29584887)

    The problem is battery tech simply hasn't kept up with the pace of technology in other sectors.

    To you and the grandparent I ask, where are your expectations coming from, and how aware are you of the progress that has been made?

    Battery technology absolutely has improved [], and quite steadily [], for years. Don't you remember cellphones from the 80s with NiCad batteries?

    Second, which "other sectors" have grown at a rate anything like Moore's Law over that time period? Moore's Law does not hold for technology in general, just transistors, and even there its days are numbered. (Aerospace and medicine (life expectancy) also shot up astronomically rather early on, then progress slowed).

  • Re:Thin is In (Score:4, Informative)

    by fabs64 ( 657132 ) <beaufabry+slashdot,org&gmail,com> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @06:44PM (#29586387)

    Kind've on-topic: You can get a third party replacement battery for the G1 that's 2300mhA and about a third thicker, comes with a replacement backplate.

  • by lysergic.acid ( 845423 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @10:29PM (#29588493) Homepage

    It's not the rate of energy release that is an issue, but rather energy density. There's also no reason why a high density (or high capacity) battery would be any less safe than low density batteries. I mean, most people are perfectly comfortable driving around in their cars, which has far more energy stored in its fuel tank than any fully-charged laptop battery—not to mention being far more volatile as well.

    Put it another way: would you be worried walking around with a piece of charcoal in your pocket? The energy density of a li-ion battery is 540 kilojoules per kilogram []. The energy density of coal is 24 megajoules per kilogram []. Oh, and a kilogram of fat? that's 37.7 megajoules []. So batteries have quite a ways to go.

    There's no reason why we can't come up with high energy density batteries that are safe, stable, and release their energy in a controlled manner. Perhaps it can't be done with li-ion technology, but I'm sure it can be done. We just need some new breakthroughs in battery technology. But these types of revolutionary technological changes can only be effected by new knowledge gained through basic research. Unfortunately, most government funding seems to go into applied research these days.

    Lastly, if you're still worried about carrying "too much energy" around in your pocket in the form of an electricity, just remember that E=mc^2. So a single gram of material of any form carries 89.87 terajoules of energy. So even an uncharged 1 ounce cellphone battery possesses 2.5 petajoules of energy, or about the same amount of energy as 41 Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs.

Matter cannot be created or destroyed, nor can it be returned without a receipt.