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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 Karem Lore ( 649920 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @02:39PM (#29583783)

    Considering that a mobile phone is always in your pocket and being moved around, isn't there a way to tap the kinetic energy to send small recharges to the battery throughout the day. This won't be enough to never have to charge, but may delay the time between charges enough to make it worthwhile...

    Like Rolex watches or something.

  • Could? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LBArrettAnderson ( 655246 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @02:40PM (#29583801)
    This already happened. Years ago. I rarely turn on the wifi on my phone, even if I'm in range and even if I'm surfing the internet, and am sure that GPS is turned off unless I'm actually using it.
  • by mewsenews ( 251487 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @02:50PM (#29583935) Homepage

    Let's get the kneejerk comments out of the way:

    - "Doesn't anyone use their phone as a god damn PHONE anymore? I'm running ($massively_antiquated_cellphone) and other than the hernia from carrying it around it stays charged for 3 months!"

    - "6 hours on a charge? My anecdote beats that anecdote!"

    - "Cell phone designers should stop being lazy and make their phones run on the tears of albino unicorns, then we wouldn't have to read about their problems with power consumption."

    - "Technology will advance to take care of this problem. In fact, when the Singularity happens, we won't even need cell phones anymore."

  • by ShadowRangerRIT ( 1301549 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @02:57PM (#29584009)
    The problem is the apps. Running an application means you are using the CPU, memory and/or networking functionality more often. On a smartphone that is used only intermittently for e-mail, the cost is small. If you are running a realtime GPS directions app for an hour at a time, you're using a hell of a lot more. Then add games, fully JavaScript-compatible web browsers, etc. It adds up. Even a normal cell phone runs down the battery an order of magnitude faster while talking than while it's sitting in your pocket. Running apps is more demanding, and consequently the power drains ever faster.
  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:05PM (#29584105) Journal
    The problem is battery tech simply hasn't kept up with the pace of technology in other sectors. Our last breakthrough was...what lithium ion batteries in the late 70s/early 80s? Like my engineer neighbor said to someone who asked him what "green tech" to invest in "Look for companies that are trying to come up with new battery tech, because the company that comes up with lighter and more powerful batteries will be richer than Bill Gates" and he is correct. We desperately need new battery tech to go with all these new mobile devices, we just haven't seen anything new coming down the pipe.
  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:06PM (#29584125) Homepage

    Until that time, carry a spare battery.

    Until that time, I carry a tiny little cable that lets me charge my cell phone (even the dreaded iPhone) from one of the literally thousands of 5V USB outlets available in civilization.

    I find when I leave civilization, I can't find many cell phone towers so I just use an alternative (sat phone with solar charger). Or I just shut up and enjoy the view.

    Spare batteries on cell phones are an overrated concept.

    This message paid by the Apple (No User Serviceable Parts) Marketing Department.

  • by Hijacked Public ( 999535 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:13PM (#29584221)

    Smartphones are also getting caught up in the same software/hardware race that computers are in.

    Opening Google Maps is painfully slow on an Edge iPhone. On a 3GS it is much faster....but sooner or later Google Maps will add features that will bog it down. So another hardware upgrade will be in order and the cycle will repeat.

    Microsoft is probably itching to slap Aero glass into Winmo, if only someone would increase battery capacity by a few thousandfold.

  • Charging speed. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RightSaidFred99 ( 874576 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:22PM (#29584321)
    People always focus on charge capacity and energy usage, but charging speed is just as important. If they can make batteries that charge in a few minutes (or hell, 30 seconds) I wouldn't mind at all if the battery only lasts 6 hours under heavy use. Put some research into that.
  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:24PM (#29584339) Journal

    Ever have to get some data off your mobile but couldn't turn it on because you've been talking all day and run it down?

    Well, no, but I have wished that I had the juice to make a phone call after having the GPS and golfcaddy software running for a miserably slow 5 hour golf round. Short of needing to check something on the phone, in the middle of nowhere, though, you scenario doesn't come up much as either (a) I pop out the uSD card and put it in a reader* or (b) I dock the phone with a pc and download the information I need. Of course, there's always my preferred method of extra capacity, which involves slipping an extra 40g battery* in my pocket if I'm going to be using the phone heavily all day and there's no charging opportunity in sight. Since my dock charges the internal and extra battery simultaneously, I'm always ready to carry the extra few hours around with me when I'm going to need it.

    Besides, you don't you think it would suck to have half the phone or PDA life? Would you really prefer to lose a call to a dead phone just so that you could check your contacts or email at the end of the day?

    *iPhones need not apply

  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:49PM (#29584627) Homepage Journal

    My G-1 had horrible battery life.

    Until I realized that it was more netbook than it was cell phone.

    Now I have my expectations set correctly, and I'm not so disappointed with the battery life. Oh, it could be better, maybe, and I would like more than about 9 hours typical life before it goes into the low battery profile, but I now know it is just not a cell phone.

    It's more.

    And that takes more power.

    And we don't have batteries that do that.

    Can we squeeze some methane fuel cells into the available form factor? I wish...

  • Re:Charging speed. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:59PM (#29584767)

    If they can make batteries that charge in a few minutes (or hell, 30 seconds) I wouldn't mind at all if the battery only lasts 6 hours under heavy use. Put some research into that.

    No, they'll never do that. The problem isn't chemistry or volume but energy transfer.

    OK, the fine article was talking about 1500 milliamp-hour batteries. So, a huge simplification, but that is an energy storage of 1500 milliamps for one hour. There are 60 minutes in a hour, or, rephrased, that battery holds 90000 milliamp-minutes of energy. Standard SI prefix conversion, that's 90 amp-minutes of energy.

    Unless its a perpetual motion device (which would be a very handy thing to have around) what goes in equals what goes out. Draw out 90 amp-minutes, its going to require 90 amp-minutes to recharge, or a little more due to inefficiency. So, to shove 90 amp-minutes of energy into a battery in 30 seconds, would take an average current of 180 amps.

    Mosey on down to yer local home depot, or other fine retailer of electrician supplies, and ask for a piece of electrical cable capable of passing 200 amps or so, depending on the clerk's competence and local electrical codes, they'll probably suggest 2/0 gauge copper per NEC standards, which vaguely resembles a copper wire rope the diameter of yer thumb. You'll need two such cables, one for positive and one for negative. Then for a good time ask them for very durable connector capable of handling 200 amps, and you'll probably get an anderson powerpole which is roughly the size of an 8-track tape, somewhat bigger than the entire phone you're trying to charge in 30 seconds. You might have seen those connectors on electric forklifts and their chargers...

    For extra fun, consider the wattage of that charger. 180 amps at maybe 4 volts is a healthy 720 watts, roughly the power draw of a one horsepower motor, or perhaps a small microwave oven. I would NOT want to be nearby when that bad boy shorts out or otherwise fails!

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @04:19PM (#29584983)

    You're missing the point, which is that apparently smartphones are doing really well in the market now, and people want more and more functionality and power, but the makers are running up against power limits with the batteries they're using.

    To use your car analogy, it's sorta like customers demanding ever-larger engines in their ever-larger cars, but not wanting bigger fuel tanks or higher gas bills. Right now, people aren't clamoring for V12 and V16 engines making 1000+ bhp, so there's no news there, but there would be if people were buying V16 (or W16) engines left and right, especially if they were then complaining about the bad fuel economy.

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