Good battery life is key to any smartphone. Sure, you want a bigger display or a better camera, or even a faster fingerprint scanner (biometric security FTW), but, if there is nothing left to power the device at the end of the day then what’s the point?
Every year we get to see some of the best smartphones on the market. Ones with bigger screens, more efficient processors and great cameras. Yet it seems that battery technology remains stagnant all year round. Actually battery technology hasn’t changed much for decade. So what’s going on? Why are smartphone batteries so lame? It all begins with the infamous Lithium-ion cell.
The objective is straightforward : What material can store the largest amount of energy at the highest density with the greatest safety while permitting the flow of ions in a graduated release of energy and then be recharged? The answer, as we all now know, is lithium, thanks to its status among the elements as the lightest of metals. Sony commercialized the first lithium-ion battery in 1991, and its proliferation throughout our device-centric world is near complete.
Just a second, guys. Let me plug in my laptop. So where were we?
Do you remember last year’s Samsung Galaxy S6? One of it’s most touted features was a 2550 mAh battery. Pathetic. Asus Zenfone Max (2016) has a 5000 mAh battery.
What is a lithium-ion cell?
You’ve probably heard about the Lithium-ion cell, right? According to Professor Wikipedia, who has a PhD in everything: A lithium-ion battery (sometimes Li-ion battery or LIB) is a member of a family of rechargeable battery types in which lithium ions move from the negative electrode to the positive electrode during discharge and back when charging.
So basically a Lithium-ion battery is just a cell where lithium ions move back and forth while charging and discharging.
That’s all the knowledge I’m going to give you because any additional information might bore you all to death.
PROS: Lithium-ion cells have a relatively simple design, and it is easily maintained.
CONS: When used in smartphones, battery life sucks. Hard. Here’s why…
Limitations of the lithium-ion cell
Fun fact: it is said that modern-day smartphones have more processing power than the computers that were used by NASA to send men to the moon. This is the major reason why lithium-ion cells are inconvenient when incorporated with smartphones. Smartphones are a lot powerful when compared to their previous iterations. They seem to get more powerful and efficient with each passing year.
Faster processors are more power hungry, although they’re being built to efficiently utilize battery life. So, I came up with this mind-blowing equation which took me just a few seconds to make, really.
Powerful processors = bad battery life
I don’t want to live in a world where I’m constantly stressed about the percentage of battery life remaining on my smartphone. When I want to catch that charmander I should get to catch that charmander! This has given rise to portable chargers and external power sources to charge our smartphones that are now a blossoming industry.
The lithium-ion cell, in short, is limited by physical size. You need a physically bigger smartphone in order to accommodate a bigger battery. In order to make up for this short coming manufacturers have resorted to reducing charging time and battery consumption.
Next I’m going to give you a brief rundown of all the awesome battery technologies that exist right now which we should see integrated into smartphones in 2016.
Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
You’ve heard of Qualcomm, right? They make the chipsets for most of the smartphones out there. Their Snapdragon SoCs are very widely used. The Quick Charge technology integrated into their chipsets are also quite popular. Last year, they unveiled Quick Charge 3.0 and it works exactly like it sounds.
Qualcomm started with Quick Charge 1.0, which allowed you to charge 40% faster than normal. Fast forward a year and they bring out Quick Charge 2.0 which bumped the threshold up to 75%. Now Quick Charge 3.0 is designed to refuel your smartphone up to 4 times faster! That’s twice as fast as Quick Charge 1.0.
And this technology is quite easy for manufacturers to implement in their smartphones in part because it works with a wide variety of connectors: USB Type-A, USB micro, USB Type-C or proprietary connectors.
Qualcomm claims that their Quick Charge 3.0 is the fastest, most efficient charging technology to date. But recently they’ve met with a new competitor: Oppo’s Super VOOC charge.
OPPO’s Super VOOC technology is fast — like crazy fast. At MWC 2016, just a mere week ago, OPPO unveiled their Super VOOC technology to rival Qualcomm’s quick charge 3.0. It uses fast charging at lower frequencies when compared to higher frequencies used by Qualcomm and OPPO claims that their super VOOC technology can completely charge a smartphone in just 15 minutes!
Just. 15. Freakin’. Minutes.
If that’s not fast, I don’t know what is. OPPO says we’ll see this technology in future handsets.
Software can also have a huge impact on battery. Software is what maintains how the battery is used, after all, and many smartphones already integrate power saving features on their smartphones. Any battery saving feature is beneficial.
For instance: Samsung’s ultra power saving mode. This mode just turns down the wick on everything it can, really. The display is in gray-scale and you can only use a handful of applications.
You’re able to switch a few stock applications around in favor for new ones, and that’s pretty much it. You can only use 3G using this mode as LTE usually gives your battery a hard time, and you are also allowed to use your smartphone’s basic necessities: Wifi, Bluetooth, Flight Mode, Mobile Networks, Location, Sound and Brightness. Wifi and Bluetooth will be turned off by default and mobile data will be disabled when the screen is turned off.
Battery is one of the most essential factors in a smartphone and a better battery can really get you out of a jam so keep your fingers crossed for the implementation of these and more awesome new battery technologies.