Thoughts, News and Banter from PowerPackXL
If you’re hoping your next smartphone will run faster, shine brighter, connect at 4G speed, and last longer on one battery charge, you’re in for a shock. The thirst for battery power in new smartphones and tablets is far outpacing improvements in battery technology. Battery makers are trying to wring the last bits of capacity out of 15-year-old lithium ion technology, while device and app makers seem to be just waking up to the seriousness of the problem. There’s an equal share of blame for all parties meanwhile the promise of innovation in mobile devices could come to an early halt due to power limitations, and consumer angst over constantly having to plug in all the time.
Once upon a time, you could forget your phone’s charger at home, go on a long weekend away and as long as you didn’t play hours of Snake – (who remembers that?!) still come home with enough battery life to call a taxi! Today we’re glued to our chargers which is where PowerPackXL comes into it’s own.
Switching over to super-fast 4G networks, as many will in 2013/14 is only going to make the problem worse and reports are already in that 4G is hammering the batteries of smartphones. The power requirements of the technology being built into mobile devices are growing at twice the pace of advances in battery capacity.
Battery technology and smartphone technology are at two very different stages in their lifespans. Unlike smartphones, battery technology has been evolving for over a century, and is much further down the development curve, meaning that improvements in battery technology, while steady, no longer happen at the breakneck speed of younger technology like smartphones. Smartphone batteries are extremely efficient compared to batteries of a decade ago, but they’re reaching a limit. But aside from tiny incremental improvements in solid-electrolyte efficiency, lithium ion polymer batteries for handheld tech products haven’t changed drastically in more than 15 years. Almost all of the batteries that power today’s smartphones and tablets run on some variant of the lithium ion polymer battery–a cell in which the anode and the cathode are packaged with a solid, gel-like electrolyte (the substance that makes the battery conduct electricity). This solid-electrolyte design was developed commercially in around 1996 as manufacturers sought a sturdier battery for mobile tech products. Previously, phones had run on lithium ion batteries with liquid electrolytes, which were bulky and relatively unstable.
Today, battery researchers continue to increase the capacity of lithium ion polymer batteries. Since a battery’s power comes from its transfer of electric-charge-bearing electrons between the anode and the cathode, battery researchers focus primarily on optimizing the multitude of mini-transfers. The smaller the battery’s window of errant chemical reactions, the more efficiently the battery will provide power. Battery makers continue to achieve capacity gains by pushing closer to that 80 percent efficiency limit.
But the incremental advances in efficiency aren’t keeping pace with the increasing energy demands of smartphones and other mobile devices. Frustrated by the chemical and physical limits of batteries, developers who want to get longer run times out of smartphone batteries must either add active material to the battery by making the inactive parts of the battery smaller (a technique that has already reached limits of its own) or move from lithium ion polymer to a different, as yet not fully researched material.
Small signs of innovation are visible on the battery-life horizon. The unanswered questions are how quickly they’ll emerge, and whether the technology involved will be scaled to serve the entire mobile world.
Of course, the good news is that until the industry get it’s house in order PowerPackXL is a device that will fit in your pocket (it’s smaller than a mobile phone) and will charge a flat device around 3-4 times from flat, so don’t suffer a battery low signal half way through the day and get stranded click HERE to find out what our device can do for you!