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Growing Power Gap Could Force Smartphone Tradeoffs

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the more-power-to-him dept.

Cellphones 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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Nobel-peas prize (green) (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29583725)

The android challenge should add a green-attribute somehow. Perhaps a special award to that category. Its not sexy to make the battery last longer. It takes a lot of effort and without reward, it won't happen. That is because the app appears outside the phone framework. e.g. somehow not responsible for power loss, when it is.

-jp
cant login
gpscruise@gmail.com

Re:Nobel-peas prize (green) (2, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584105)

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.

Re:Nobel-peas prize (green) (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584831)

Batteries have to store enormous energy and be able to release it at high rate. It pretty much follows that there will be cases where energy is released at too high a rate for your safety, no matter what is the underlying technology. Do you really want to be carrying an even more powerful bomb in close proximity to your private parts for most of the day?

Personally, I would rather think of my phone as a remote desktop client for servers whose power supplies are safely away from my cajones. And for cases where that's not possible, such as real time video augmentation, we should start programming mobile clients with the same care we used for hand-optimized assembler on original IBM PCs until CPU technology catches up in speed per watt.

Re:Nobel-peas prize (green) (2, Informative)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 [nexergy.com] , and quite steadily [kk.org] , 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:(green) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29584893)

There is a display technology just becoming mature enough to replace the LCD displays in smartphones with something that uses a lot less power; a phone battery might last 40% longer with this display in it.

http://www.mirasoldisplays.com/ [mirasoldisplays.com]

Re:Nobel-peas prize (green) (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584753)

It's already a huge problem. My old Verizon LG VX9800 (aka 'The V') will last a week without charging. It's pretty old, but I would say it was pretty powerful for a phone of it's day - mobile web, full keyboard, stereo sound and the ability to download (or load from a miniSD) full songs and video and all that good stuff. It's no iPhone, but considering it's age (and network...) it's pretty good. Next up is a sidekick LX. It can maybe make it 20 hours on a full charge - _maybe_ up to around 30 if you have good service. And finally, the iPhone. I have yet to see that thing make it from the time I would wake up to the time I would go to sleep without a charge. From what I've seen (I don't have one - my girlfriend does), it needs charged twice a day.

Oh, I should also add that these all have the original battery in them. So the VX9800 is getting a week on a 5 year old battery, the sidekick can't hit a day on a 3 year old battery, and the iPhone can barely make 12 hours on a year old battery. I'd be quite scared to see how long an iPhone would last with a 5 year old battery (in my experience with an iPod, 5 years will nearly half the life of the battery.) I would however _love_ to see how long my VX9800 would have lasted fresh out of the box.

Re:Nobel-peas prize (green) (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584781)

Ah damnit, didn't notice until _just_ after I hit reply that I was replying to a comment not the story. Sorry.

Dilbert (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29583771)

There is always a relevant Dilbert [imageshack.us] strip.

Easy solution...at least for a bit more juice (4, Insightful)

Karem Lore (649920) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Easy solution...at least for a bit more juice (4, Informative)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Easy solution...at least for a bit more juice (1)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 5 years ago | (#29583999)

And kinetic electric watches tend to use capacitors instead of batteries, which take a charge more easily than a battery. You'd lose a lot of whatever the minuscule amount of power is generated trying to get it into the battery.

Re:Easy solution...at least for a bit more juice (0)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584071)

you'd be better off increasing the size of the battery.

Or reducing the hunger of your phone. My $15 Nokia lasts 2-3 weeks per recharge if I'm not using it for conversations. I have another phone I use regularly, this one just sits on my desk all day long, functioning mostly as a clock and a paperweight.

Re:Easy solution...at least for a bit more juice (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584955)

My $15 Nokia lasts 2-3 weeks per recharge if I'm not using it for conversations.

We have a winner, folks... the secret to drastically improving battery life in mobile devices is to turn them off and leave them in a drawer. Problem solved.

Re:Easy solution...at least for a bit more juice (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584655)

There's not that much power to be had in your pocket. True, but the average slashdotter's wrist generates a LOT of kinetic energy! If only there was some way to harness it, and use it to provide power for downloading from the 'net...

Re:Easy solution...at least for a bit more juice (-1, Offtopic)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 5 years ago | (#29583907)

Well, considering smartphones tend to spend a lot of time near geeks' wangs, there has to be a way you could funnel all that sexual frustration into power...perhaps to browse porn on the phone.

Re:Easy solution...at least for a bit more juice (2, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#29583951)

"mobile [...] moved around"? Once you're past puberty and move out of your mom's basement, you'll spend most of your time sitting at a desk. When you do get up to heave your bulk to the coffee machine, you'll leave your "mobile" sitting there so that when you finally trudge back, your co-workers can tell you that your novelty ring tone went off four times at full volume while you were away.

Now, if we could harness stupidity or hatred to power mobiles, they'd run forever.

Re:Easy solution...at least for a bit more juice (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584133)

Simple- use a USB charger...when I'm at my desk, my phone is plugged into a USB port. For the desks in sensitive areas when I'm not allowed to do that, a powered hub with the data not plugged into anything charges all my devices just fine.

Charge at my desk, and when I'm sleeping, and my smartphone's 5 hour battery life is never a problem.

Re:Easy solution...at least for a bit more juice (1)

drougie (36782) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584803)

Here may be a good place to note that USB puts out 500mA at best theoretically (IE less than 400mA in reality). On idle phones can use between 15 and 150mA and when in heavy use, like wifi, gps, video, password cracking, high throughput (as in over 500kbit/s) and voice, as much as 600mA. So if you're tethering [wmwifirouter.com] or running a phone torrent client for fun you may end up eating more power than your laptop's charging and you could even overheat and freeze or damage the phone if you get extreme.

Depending on your phone, different story with a wall charger which in the case of my HTC phone pumps out 1A. Another disadvantage of USB charging versus charging with wall chargers of the likes of my phone is that my charger, I'm told, knows when my phone's charged and eases back the juice so I don't overcharge my battery. USB may not be so smart. So maybe the GP knows about USB and opts for the outlet by the coffee machine. Wants a fast and effective charge, we've all been there. I've heard a few people claim that a full charge from USB tends to run out quicker than a full wall charge but I don't know why that would be true.

I've also heard that charging and using your phone even lightly (with the screen on, open data connection or more) can strain the battery a little too much and heat it up so that charging is much more painful for the long-term longevity of lion batteries.

Re:Easy solution...at least for a bit more juice (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584335)

I'm sedentary, you insensitive clod!

Re:Easy solution...at least for a bit more juice (1)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584369)

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.

I don't need more excuses to throw people's cell phones out of windows.

Donkey (5, Funny)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 5 years ago | (#29583793)

... Schreck, a research analyst with IMS Research.

As a work around, I think he plans on just having Donkey carry around more batteries.

Could? (2, Insightful)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Could? (1)

Deag (250823) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584467)

There is a good bit that could be done with software to help this, settings to revert to the edge network with gps off when asleep for more than a few minutes for example. Or even a button that allows to toggle low power mode.

Going through the settings turning this on and off is annoying.

Re:Could? (1)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584727)

There is a good bit that could be done with software to help this, settings to revert to the edge network with gps off when asleep for more than a few minutes for example. Or even a button that allows to toggle low power mode.

Going through the settings turning this on and off is annoying.

Interestingly, the specs for the HTC Dream show that it has a longer standby time when using a WCDMA network than GSM. WCDMA uses more power than GSM when on a call though.

how is this news? (0)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 5 years ago | (#29583815)

Newsflash - laptops with giant screens and monster processors use more juice too. What's next, an article about how V8 engines use more gas than 4-cyl engines?

Re:how is this news? (2, Interesting)

0rbit4l (669001) | more than 5 years ago | (#29583941)

Wow, the un-newsworthiness of this article completely escaped me until you provide a car analogy. It's all so clear now! Obviously, when dealing with a technology that sometimes features geometrically increasing capabilities, we should always remember to think in terms of internal-combustion transportation devices! DUH!

Back on topic, I think it'll be interesting to see how interfaces make selective shutoff of features more intuitive inside a program, instead of having to bump out & modify device settings. To that end, it might be useful to have programming constructs for developers to indicate that such-and-such function will need network access, or what have you, as a hint to a mobile OS that could do runtime analysis & shut down pieces as necessary.

One wonders if reversible computing will help (2, Interesting)

liquiddark (719647) | more than 5 years ago | (#29583835)

It'd be great to know how much of the battery life is consumed by the processors. If it's a major factor (versus, say, screen life, where LEDs and quantum well diodes should theoretically help), then perhaps the reversible computing push so prevalent in Kurzweil's books and rhetoric could be of some assistance.

Re:One wonders if reversible computing will help (3, Informative)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:One wonders if reversible computing will help (1)

liquiddark (719647) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584663)

Not sure what you thought I meant but...reversible computing [wikipedia.org]

Isn't the battery somewhat outdated? (1)

xednieht (1117791) | more than 5 years ago | (#29583867)

Was the battery not a solution for a time when devices were used temporarily then set aside? Wouldn't personal-perpetual power make more sense for an age when devices spend more time being on rather than off?

Re:Isn't the battery somewhat outdated? (1)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 5 years ago | (#29583961)

Feel free to try convincing people to lug around massive batteries and/or wear power generation harnesses just to use a phone.

Re:Isn't the battery somewhat outdated? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29584119)

Yes, and make sure you start flapping your arms 5-6 minutes before you wish to check your stocks

Re:Isn't the battery somewhat outdated? (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584061)

Was the battery not a solution for a time when devices were used temporarily then set aside? Wouldn't personal-perpetual power make more sense for an age when devices spend more time being on rather than off?

Sure would be great if it were possible. But its not.

The closest you could get is some kind of solar powered fabric you could wear as clothing and charge your devices.

Another option is piezo electric generators in your shoes, charged as you walk, but that is hardly perpetual either.

Another option is a device that filters organic material from your blood stream and metabolizes it for fuel, there is some research in this area, but its far from being usable.

Re:Isn't the battery somewhat outdated? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29584511)

Another option is a device that filters organic material from your blood stream and metabolizes it for fuel, there is some research in this area, but its far from being usable.

I used to think American's were fat....instead we're just building up fuel reserves!

I for one welcome our obese perpetual power overloads. You down with OPP yeah you know me.....

Re:Isn't the battery somewhat outdated? (3, Interesting)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584449)

Well, if we are proposing new power technologies, how about something *slightly* more practical, like small scale fuel cells? Or, if you want to go really pie-in-the-sky, how about small scale atomic batteries or radioisotope thermoelectric generators. Change your batteries every 15-20 years.

Why go faster? Why not stay the same? (1)

fahrvergnugen (228539) | more than 5 years ago | (#29583903)

It's my thinking that a smartphone is a closed system with a base initial launch spec that's never going to change, much like a game console. Game console power requirements and manufacturing costs drop over time, as the chipsets inside are consolidated and die shrinks lessen power consumption. But since a PS3 made in 2009 can't be any more powerful than a PS3 made in 2006, and the XBox 360 spec for 2009 is the same as the one that was released in 2005, the manufacturers can focus on electrical and manufacturing efficiency instead of increasing computing power with every hardware iteration.

Why does the same not hold true for the static handset platforms like the iphone? Yes, the iphone has added features as life has progressed (slightly faster clocks, 3g antennae, bigger storage, compass, etc) but these things - with the possible exception of 3g - are not huge power sinks, and most of them aren't even turned on most of the time.

Re:Why go faster? Why not stay the same? (2, Insightful)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Why go faster? Why not stay the same? (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584245)

Specifically (and this seems to be true on my TMobile Wing (Windows Mobile), my sister-in-law's blackberry, my aunt's iPhone, and my wife's G1) misbehaving apps seem to be the biggest battery draw: those that fail to turn off resources when they are done with them.

It's amazing how many times I've pulled my phone out of my pocket only to find Wifi or Edge turned on- and the battery below 50%.

Re:Why go faster? Why not stay the same? (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584545)

Having Wi-Fi and 3G/Edge turned on is the best way to murder any phone battery. My S730 may last two-three days normally, but if I turn on Wi-Fi in maximum performance mode as well as 3G (or even just Edge in my case), I can run down the battery in maybe 30 minutes. In fact, if I put my finger on the battery or the rear cover, I can feel it heat up due to the enormous power drawn by the WiFi/3G modules.

Re:Why go faster? Why not stay the same? (3, Insightful)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Why go faster? Why not stay the same? (1)

Seedy2 (126078) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584395)

Nah, we just need an implant that generates electricity from all the calories floating around in our blood waiting to turn into fat.
Then we could power all of our devices and lose weight at the same time. :)

Dual-battery config? (3, Interesting)

jddj (1085169) | more than 5 years ago | (#29583905)

Wish they'd do one battery for the radio components and one for the CPU/etc. That way your CPU (MP3, gaming, PDA) requirements wouldn't be a slave to your talk time on the phone - and vice-versa.

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?

Re:Dual-battery config? (3, Interesting)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584033)

Rather than 2 batteries, I'd much rather have the firmware begin powering down radio functions once the main battery reaches some preset level of discharge. Or instead of a preset level of discharge, a user selectable one.

Re:Dual-battery config? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584135)

It's a fucking phone.

Radio functions (making fucking calls) should be the last thing to go.

Re:Dual-battery config? (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584191)

Well then your user-selectable preference would prioritize GSM/CDMA over things like WiFi, graphics power for gaming, etc.

Re:Dual-battery config? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584733)

Yeah it would.
My point is that I disagree with your priorities.

Chiefly on the whole "oh shit, emergency, call 911" issue.

Re:Dual-battery config? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29584931)

Firmware really has come a long way over the last 3 or 4 decades. You'd be amazed. I bet somebody could even figure out a way to make a smartphone devote all it's remaining power to an outgoing call when 9-1-1 is dialled.

Re:Dual-battery config? (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584295)

No more so than my computer is a phone because I have Skype. I'd actually rather my iPhone was less phone-centric, particularly with out of band notifications. Most everyone I know with a Blackberry would probably choose email as the last to go if they had to manage power.

Re:Dual-battery config? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584717)

Hope you never have to dial 911 when your battery is low.

Re:Dual-battery config? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29584269)

I'd hate to have my phone tell me I can't use it to make a call when I need it for an emergency. A 3 minute call to 911 that dies is way better than nothing.

Actually, nevermind, as per an article not too long ago, I would only need facebook access...

http://idle.slashdot.org/idle/09/09/08/1421220.shtml

Re:Dual-battery config? (1)

gordguide (307383) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584457)

" ... I'd much rather have the firmware begin powering down radio functions once the main battery reaches some preset level of discharge. ..."

That's exactly what my BlackBerry Storm does. Only reason I know that is it happened last night ... battery was low, phone powered up, can read eMail stored on the device, compose replies, etc., but won't connect to the network (the exact words: "radio disabled") until it gets a recharge, or you manually re-enable radio functions (presumably, for important or emergency calls knowing that there won't be much airtime).

Good luck with that (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584041)

You're not going to be able to run the dialer app without a CPU.

Re:Dual-battery config? (3, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584339)

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

Re:Dual-battery config? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29584507)

System-on-chip designs already have enough fine grained power control that the main CPU does not have to be switched on for the radio to be operational. It only wakes up when you receive a call. Likewise the radio can be fully powered down while the main core runs normally.

So under your scheme, what happens when I run out of radio power? Can I move some power from the CPU battery to the radio battery? It's much better to have one big battery. You can carry a spare, or an emergency charger if you really have this problem that often.

Slashdot in a bottle (5, Insightful)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 5 years ago | (#29583935)

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."

Re:Slashdot in a bottle (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584043)

when the Singularity happens, cell phones won't even need us anymore.

FTFY

Re:Slashdot in a bottle (3, Funny)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584417)

Yeah, it's way better when those are consolidated into a single, apathetic post. Plus, I bet that will keep anyone else from posting similar sentiments in a more serious tone. Maybe you could attach that to the beginning of every article from now on, just in case one of the regular killjoys forgets to log on and we miss our usual dose of frowns.

Re:Slashdot in a bottle (1)

Riddles (2787) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584501)

Actually, I do use my phone primary for calling. On my very nice smartphone (Samsung i780 - Windows Mobile), I've turned off UMTS and switched right back to plain old GSM + GPRS. As a result, my battery will now last two days, where I can make several long (> 30 mins) calls. And, e-mail/calendar/contact synchronization still work over good old GPRS. As a side effect, phone calls are still much more reliable over GSM than they are over UMTS - at least they are on this phone.

Good news everybody! (4, Interesting)

chill (34294) | more than 5 years ago | (#29583963)

Necessity is the mother of invention. Nothing will drive battery research like a heavy demand for better batteries.

Until that time, carry a spare battery. I've always done this, just in case I drain the first one. This is one of the biggest reasons I refuse to buy an iPhone -- you can't remove the battery.

Re:Good news everybody! (1)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584065)

I would rather the efficiency of the device be improved first.

Re:Good news everybody! (1)

chill (34294) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584179)

Both would be better.

I'm thinking battery improvements won't necessarily be confined to cell phone batteries, and would work their way into everything from car batteries down to hearing aid batteries.

Re:Good news everybody! (3, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584125)

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.

Re:Good news everybody! (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Good news everybody! (1)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584943)

That crap should be illegal. We, like the Europeans, ought to have a single charger standard for everyone.

Re:Good news everybody! (2, Informative)

IDtheTarget (1055608) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584199)

No, but you can bring an external battery pack [imaxpower.com] or use a battery sleeve [phonesuit.com] , which amounts to the same thing.

Re:Good news everybody! (1)

cellurl (906920) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584267)

Android will fix this in the ADC-3 where they will have a new category called the Nobel-Peas prize (green android/green peas...) Then and only then will developers like myself tweak down da juice.
It takes a tremendous effort to write a battery friendly app, but it is possible and gratefing [cant spell].

-jp
Power hungry app [google.com]

Re:Good news everybody! (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584469)

Pfft. Maybe YOU can't remove the battery...

All *I* require is a spectacle repair kit, a flat surface, some bubble gum, an arc welder, and some spare case backings in case of catastrophic failure. It's really quite simple. Oh sure, some people carry around charge cords since electricity is ubiquitous in places where cell phones work, and many places they don't, but they're just rank amateurs who aren't in transit for every hour of every day.

Re:Good news everybody! (1)

bl8n8r (649187) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584685)

> carry a spare battery.

Be careful not to put any paperclips or change in the same pocket as the
battery.

Re:Good news everybody! (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584691)

another solution that keeps popping up is a external battery that has a usb port and a bundled collection of adapters for various phones...

some of the bigger ones even have a port that allow them to handle laptops.

the concept is the same as a spare battery, but i can keep doing what you where doing without having to shut down to replace the battery. and unlike a spare battery, they have their own charger to as part of the bundle. One interesting philips model basically has a fold up wall socket built in, making it both a battery and a universal power brick.

yep, there is some loss in the conversion, but the flexibility makes up for it, imo.

btw, it seems that usb is becoming the universal power source for all manner of low power devices. I even see converters between the car lighter socket and usb these days...

Perhaps they just need better batteries. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584053)

I can usually get 12 hours off my iPhone during heavy usage. Days on light use. I don't think that the iPhone is considered a low end power consuming device. I think it is just the case they need higher quality batteries in their device, where the current one probably made the phone a little cheaper. Granted CPU usage will overtake battery growth... Batteries tend to approve linearly while Computation increases exponentially. However these gloom and doom stories we hear over and over again, never really come into play. As we find workarounds, and the fact our needs have changed. For example on the old cell phones they use to have an analog/digital switch that took a lot of power. Most new phones today are all digital so we save energy. Perhaps when we get to the point most cell phones will work over VoIP so they don't need features for the normal calls and text messages. As well it can turn off its cell service when we are in HotSpots, saving more energy.

Re:Perhaps they just need better batteries. (1)

MrCrassic (994046) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584263)

I can reach similarly lengthy runtimes on my iPhone as well, but it all goes to shit as soon as Wifi is enabled...

I really hope that research in reducing power consumption on 3G and Wifi networks is hot right now. Being able to do this would be a HUGE plus.

pffffttt.. (2, Funny)

0110011001110101 (881374) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584097)

no biggie, desk charger... check, car charger.. check, nightstand charger.. check. I don't spend more than 10 minutes between any one of those things... so give me all the features baby, i only need 10 minutes between plug in times. (obligatory thats what she said!)

Re:pffffttt.. (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584687)

I don't spend more than 10 minutes between any one of those things. And yet, you still refer to it as a "wireless" phone?!?

The problem is not CPU-power or display size (1)

Casandro (751346) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584099)

The problem why most computing devices suck today is that are to restricted and often to cumbersome to use.
The iPhone was only successfull, because it is easy to use. It's still heavily restricted, for example you cannot do application development on it.
Windows Mobile devices are not much less restricted than the iPhone, but are harder to use.

At least for geeks this might change with newer Linux-based devices running on distributions like Maemo. For example my N810 can do nearly everything your unixoid workstation can do. Sure it's limited in display and keyboard, but seriously, you cannot fit a 30" display into a portable device, can you? I can simply ssh to other computers, or even ssh from them to my portable device. I can simply use apt-get to install packages, and if it shouldn't be availiable, it should be possible to compile it on the device.

There already is a tradeoff (1)

mcsqueak (1043736) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584131)

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.

If I'm going to be out of the house or away from the office all day without a chance to charge the devices, I know I need to limit the amount of needless browsing or playing I do with the phone, in order to make sure I have enough power to actually use it when I need to, you know, make a phone call.

Re:There already is a tradeoff (2, Informative)

Orange Crush (934731) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 [bikehugger.com] , or a try a more do-it-yourself option [geektechnique.org]

Re:There already is a tradeoff (2, Interesting)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584775)

I was shocked the other day when I noticed that running my 3gs with 'everything' on and TomTom, the car charger was keeping the battery at 58%. Not 'charging' it.

What I'd love is a simple app (in the app store, dammit) which lets you define profiles. When I'm driving, I don't need wi-fi on, I probably don't need 3G on. When I'm at the office, I don't need location services on, I don't need 3G on, but I do need wi-fi on. And so on.

Re:There already is a tradeoff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29584951)

I thought I actually bought that smartphone to do that needless browsing on the go, not while I'm at home, I got a comfortable desktop for doing that at home.

batteries have always sucked. That's probably how it's gonna be, although you do see the yearly "inventions", which will end our mobile energy hunger, but they never seem to get to mainstream market.

We were blessed with iPhones... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29584145)

...for our on-call mobile devices at work.

Whiz-bang multimedia features, lightning-fast internet access...

What we found after the first few weeks is the we actually wanted a device to make and receive phonecalls, and get texts, maybe the odd email or Google search, and without having to run for a power socket every day.
As a result: GPS - Off. 3G - Off. Push email - Off. We've got a technological tour-de-force and been forced to gut it for usability. It's sad really.

Double in 5 years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29584201)

Wow. 15% for 5 years results in double the power demands. I can see his point on battery technology having difficulty keeping up with that, but is sustaining that kind of power demand increase all that likely?

This presents another great opportunity (1)

Britz (170620) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584203)

Nowdays the hardware is all the same. All smartphones have 3G, Wifi, GPS and Bluetooth, some have FM receivers. The difference now is all in the software. As much as I dislike the IPhone I guess it still has an edge over other models in that area.

Anyways, less and less power consumption in different parts of the phone could be new way for the hardware makers to differentiate themselves.

Samsung for example makes phones with Windows Mobile, Symbian, Android and their own Smartphone OS. HTC competes with them with their Windows Mobile and Android phones.

backpack batteries ? (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584213)

backpack-size batteries? like a proton-pack ?

Fight or flight? (1)

MrCrassic (994046) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584217)

I'm sure that the companies and individuals that heavily dealt with the inception of the smartphone knew that this was an inevitability. The more demanding a service becomes, the more the service has to provide; simple as that.

I think that fleeing from the problem --- mobile users demanding more ways to use their powerful devices --- is NOT the way to handle it. Can you really consider re-separating the mobile phone, media player and internet device for the sake of battery life progress? I know that the intention is not this extreme, but even the consideration of such a notion does technically promote these lines of thinking.

Like overcoming Moore's Law, this is a problem that needs to be fought. Many research groups are looking into new types of battery cells which are safer and more power-efficient. Mobile operating systems are increasingly recognizing problematic areas in power consumption, and are addressing them readily.

What I think Jobs is or will land up doing is imposing some kind of far-fetched condition for future iPhones; something like, "Make the iPhone run for two or three days with 3G and wireless enabled, Twitter and AIM in the background (via push notification) and my Bob Dylan collection going." Seems impossible...until their jobs are on the line.

Why do I need so many batteries? (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584259)

I carry with me regularly:

--a cell phone, with utterly crappy battery life (You've heard about $15 phones with great battery life? This is one of the other $15 phones.)
--a digital camera, with a big fat Li-Ion that lasts for well over a thousand shots
--a netbook, again with a big fat battery

This is rather absurd. I can understand these devices having custom battery form factors, but the power itself should be reroutable. They're all just Li-Ion batteries producing (close to) some multiple of 3.7V; I should be able to run my phone off of my camera's battery, say, when the phone goes flat... or just carry around a big Li-Ion pack in my pocket and run anything I care to off of it. Batteries are flat and I'm in the middle of nowhere? Plug in a solar panel and charge everything, without having to mess with all this DC -> AC -> DC conversion.

In the early days of electricity, before the centralized power grid, families had large batteries they'd charge off of a generator, and then run various things off of by doing the wiring themselves, ad-hoc. We need something similar, but for portable DC setups.

Re:Why do I need so many batteries? (1)

thpr (786837) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584583)

This (almost) all exists today, if you're willing to buy the components required. (Almost depends on who built your camera)

Kensington will sell you cell phone connectors [kensington.com] that will allow you to charge a cell phone from a laptop or other USB power source. It also has a portable battery [kensington.com] that can provide an additional charge for your cell phone. Or step up to a fully universal laptop battery [google.com] if you want to power that netbook

Some cameras can also be charged from USB, allowing you to use the Kensington portable battery or your netbook. Google to find out if yours can be charged that way.

There are at least half a dozen [treehugger.com] systems to charge a laptop (or in your case, a netbook) from solar power, effectively making it your portable power station, using solar power as the source.

Being hungry can force eating too. (2, Interesting)

Minwee (522556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584299)

As always, it comes down to consumer choice. Do you want an MC-900-Foot-Jesus-Phone with a library of twelve thousand different fart noises at your fingertips which goes from fully charged to flat in six hours, or would you rather tote around a nigh-indestructible Motofone F3 [reghardware.co.uk] with a battery which lasts over a week on a single charge, but has no features beyond voice and SMS?

I would advise you to vote with your wallet and let the market decide, but you'd have to buy a new F3 every day for over three weeks just to add up to the cost of The Other Phone so it seems that some votes count more than others.

Charging speed. (2, Insightful)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Charging speed. (2, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 5 years ago | (#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!

size matters ... (1)

BenBoy (615230) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584341)

From the FA: Battery power and life is "by and large a function of the chemistry in the battery,"
Yeah, and the battery size, maybe? I could go with double the battery volume in my iphone for twice the life; yup, that'd be just about fine with me.

Thin is In (4, Interesting)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584383)

A trend I've noticed for both smartphones and laptops is the constant drive to reduce size and make devices thinner. Smaller and thinner is trendier. Frankly, I wish they're just make an iPhone or laptop twice as thick, thus quadrupling the battery life. I'm not a weakling. I can carry a bit more weight especially if the device is functional enough to take over the function of some other devices I would otherwise carry.

A new chargers infrastructure ? (2, Interesting)

S3D (745318) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584603)

It seems it will be a while before there will be significant progress in batteries. As a stop-gap measure is it realistic to deploy network of chargers? Chargers at cafe, shops, gov offices, ATM and phone booths. Preferably inductive chargers [wikipedia.org] to evade connectors hell. Cellular network operators can brand them, to give them incentive. Payment can go into phone bill.

Set proper expectations... (2, Insightful)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584627)

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...

Has to be said (1)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584631)

I for one welcome our newfound elite high powered smart phones and offer my services subjugating the less powerful smart phones as the growing energy gap widens between them. With the vanishing middle class of smart phones it is obvious that the high powered multifeatured phones will rule the less powerful, featureless unwashed masses of crapgadgets.

Eventually a new breed of simple highpowered basic phones using E-ink technology will eventually overpopulate and violently overthrow the elite phones in which I will help in this revolution, betraying the high powered smart phones at the most inopportune time, thus endearing me to the savage phone armies and securing once again my place of comfort as I exploit the peasantry.

Priority of usage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29584713)

Although I can use my Blackberry as a rudimentary camera, movie/mp3 player, etc. I limit my usage to e-mail, web, and phone. If I want a camera, I will carry one separately. Same thing for iPod. If I want to watch a movie, I can use a laptop. Usage of the BB is limited to things that my other gizmos can't do in a mobile environment. Otherwise, I exhaust the battery on mp3s, and I have nothing left when I really need to use the phone or respond to an urgent message. Nobody's power technology is going to make me feel good about playing mp3s and videos on a smartphone.

My smartphone needs no power (0)

c0d3g33k (102699) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584729)

... since it doesn't exist. Somehow, my landline + voice only cellphone seem to be more than adequate for my needs.

Go figure. :-)

No solution in sight? (2, Informative)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

I have THE solution! (1)

just fiddling around (636818) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584779)

One word: MintyBoost.

am I the only one who read... (1)

blackfrancis75 (911664) | more than 5 years ago | (#29584835)

Schreck estimates power requirements can grow 15% a year.
He made the assertion, before walking back down to his hovel in the swamp, with Donkey and Fiona.
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