The case for better battery life, without better batteries

published on Jul 02, 2014

better batteries

Smartphones succeeded where laptops failed : sitting comfortably in our pockets, these super-phones managed to follow us almost everywhere, waiting for our fingertips to unlock all their powers. Capable of executing almost any task we throw at them, be it composing a text message or monitoring our vital signs. They managed to both empower and enslave us.

(Un)surprisingly though, they also managed to fail us exactly where their old cousins did, years earlier. Just few hours of (not really) intensive use are enough to drain their batteries, rendering them as useless as a brick, leaving us disconnected and lost (both figuratively and literately).

Even though smartphones are supposed to accompany us through the day, executing tasks on the go, they simply don’t. The best smartphone out there can only serve us for a couple of hours of “moderate” usage (whatever this is supposed to mean), before its battery goes out of juice. And no matter what, don’t you ever dare go to the bed without plugging in your smartphone, otherwise, you’ll regret it as soon as the next morning.

This was, and still, the case for so many years now, and I believe it needs to stop right now. Because unlike what we had few years earlier, when batteries really sucked, today’s technology is good enough to take us through the day … and beyond.

The war against the war for “better” screens

Ever since the world shed an eye on the iPhone 4 and its out-of-this-world Retina Display, everybody has been obsessed with screens and “better” screens. Of course, a better screen means a lot more than just squeezing more pixels into the display, as there are a lot of other parameters to take care of (contrast or color saturation, to name a few), but no one seems to care.

That’s the reason why we ended up today with a whole lineage of smartphones sporting Full HD screens and, thanks to the LG G3, even a 4K display!

When presenting the then-new display technology, Apple’s Steve Jobs said they called it “Retina” because it displays the maximum resolution the human retina can capture from an arm’s length distance. But even with the screen few millimeters away from your eyes, it’s really hard to discern the individual pixels.

Of course, Apple didn’t update its phones’ screens’ resolution since then, even though it did a good job perfecting the overall display quality, making it one of the best screens out there, if not THE best.

To this point, all “superior” resolutions are just useless and cannot be justified as they only suck more juice for nothing worth the cost, especially with screens as small as those we find on smartphones. Marketing aside, of course.

Dear manufacturers, until you can come up with batteries that last for more than just few hours, you need to stop this silly war immediately.

Thinner batteries, shorter pleasures

With bigger, sharper screens, our phones are also getting thinner over the years. As a consequence, not only the huge displays suck more juice faster, manufacturers even made their batteries smaller. Of course, smaller batteries does NOT really mean less power, as technology’s evolution allows to squeeze in more juice.

In the other hand, thicker batteries (just a 1- or 2-millimeter extension), combined with slightly better batteries, will allow for much more autonomy to smartphones, meaning that we might finally be able to use them anywhere and everywhere, not just where we can afford to charge them.

Would this make our smartphones bulkier and uglier? Yes. But only if you notice it, which won’t happen in most cases. In the other hand, people will, no doubt, notice the autonomy bump. And, oh boy, they’ll be happy about it.

I don’t know what kind of user you are, but I’m pretty sure you’d rather having a smartphone that lasts longer over over-spec’d screens and super-thin bodies.

As for me, I do.