Our Silicon Valley newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, published this morning an article on the all-known battery blues. We have heard this story before. Your battery runs out before your day is out. The paper quotes Prof. K.M. Abraham, from the Center for Renewable Energy Technology at Northeastern University in Boston, saying that the present battery material system is reaching a dead end and that a new material paradigm is needed. The paper continues to describe how users are now lugging with them battery bricks; this is jargon for these extra heavy battery chargers that you can carry with you in case your phone battery dies in mid-flight.
But these bricks are incredibly impractical. You pay hundreds of dollars for your thin and slim smartphone, yet you are willing to compromise by carrying these heavy battery bricks. The inexpensive versions from China (retailing somewhere near $20) don’t last much. Ones with higher quality can be quite expensive, with some even breaking the $100 mark. This is the definition of a poor compromise. Consumers deserve better!
The battery materials and chemistry are not evolving fast, their energy density is not increasing at a rapid rate, and they are falling short of providing higher capacity batteries. For the time being, smartphones seem to be limited to around 3,000 mAh as a maximum capacity. At this capacity, the energy density is state-of-the-art at more than 600 Wh/l, but the batteries seem to last a full day at this capacity. The iPhone 6 Plus and the Sony Xperia Z3 are examples of devices with approximately 3,000 mAh of capacity, and they are receiving rave reviews.
So what solutions can be acceptable to consumers and involve no compromise?
First, make 3,000 mAh batteries the standard across smartphones. Yes, that also means using the highest possible energy density, presently around 600 Wh/l.
Second, make fast charging ubiquitous. If consumers can fast charge their mobile devices, then their anxiety about battery life is greatly diminished, if not eliminated. What is fast charging? Fast enough that you can charge your phone in about 30 minutes; if not all the way to 100%, then at least to 80%. This is the level when consumers viscerally feel that they have plenty of charge in their battery.
Third, give the consumers a great sense of satisfaction that their batteries will have ample longevity and warranty, in other words, give them 800 cycles or more. Don’t cheat them with 500 cycles. These three elements can already be delivered to consumers today — the technology already exists.
That’s the definition of no compromise. As a consumer, let your carrier know. Demand a battery with no compromise. Let your device manufacturer know. Vote with your wallet and rebel against the lousy battery choices that the industry keeps entertaining.