Poor battery life is one of the most commonly heard complaints about smartphones. And if you're constantly searching for a plug socket, or plugging in a battery pack, then you might be wondering why on earth we can't get a phone that'll last for a day between charges. The truth of the matter is that we desperately need new battery tech. And we're taking a look at just why that is.
The Real Issue
Getting a phone that lasts more than a day per charge isn't quite as easy as you might think. The bottom line here is that phones have changed, but battery power just hasn't. This all comes down to a combination of factors all of which influence just how much charge your smartphone battery can hold.
The first issue here is that phones just keep getting better and better. If you look at the phone that you had a decade ago and the phone that you have now, the difference is astounding. More than anything, smartphone displays have dramatically improved. They're bigger, brighter, and clearer than ever before, and that screen is a big battery drain.
Throw in faster processors, better graphics, faster performance specs, and that mini computer that you're holding in your hand uses tons more power than an old Nokia. Sure, your Nokia 3310 might have lasted three days between charges, but could it surf the web at lightning speed, play Candy Crush, or edit your business presentation?
Whilst phone hardware has seriously improved, what we do with our phones has also changed. The advent of background syncing and Push notifications means that your mobile is now working even when it's switched off.
Though your screen might be dark, your phone is still working to make sure that you're getting all your emails, your Facebook notifications, your reminders and alarms and everything else. An older dumb phone didn't have this problem, off meant off. Your current phone is draining battery power just by hanging out on your desk…
The Aesthetics of It All
Faster, better phones mean that batteries are drained more quickly. That's pretty simple. And the easy answer here would be to put bigger batteries onto smartphones. So why don't manufacturers simply do that? Well, that's because you don't want them to.
Yes, all day battery life sounds great. But the trend for smartphones is to get thinner and lighter even as those screens get bigger and the internals becomes more powerful. And the tradeoff here is that in order for your phone to be thin and light it needs to have a smaller battery. You might want all-day battery life, but are you willing to put up with a thicker, heavier phone in order to get it? Most consumers simply aren't.
Can't We Just Get Better Batteries?
Believe it or not, mobile batteries have improved. All you need to do is look at battery specs on, say, the old Samsung Galaxy SII (1650 mAh) compared to the new Galaxy S8 (3000 mAh). The real problem isn't that battery tech hasn't improved, it's that battery tech hasn't improved as quickly as mobile manufacturing technology.
Batteries themselves are fairly old technology, which means that innovation has slowed and just can't keep pace with the rapid advancement of computer processing chips and phone displays.
That's not to say that people aren't working on the problem. Flexible batteries, solid state batteries, fuel cell batteries, and even gold nanowire batteries are all currently being researched and developed. Any of these could offer a solution to our battery tech problems. But they're still a fair way off.
In terms of the more traditional Li-ion batteries that we're all so used to using on our mobiles, the simple fact is that there's not a lot more that we can do with them. If you're not willing to sacrifice some of that portability and opt for a phone that's thicker and heavier and can, therefore, have a larger battery, then you're just going to have to settle for less than ideal battery life.
So What Are My Current Options?
If you're looking for stellar battery life then there are options available to you. Carrying a battery pack is always a possibility, of course. But there are also phones out there that have bigger batteries. The new Huawei Mate 10 Pro, for example, carries a massive 4000 mAh battery on board. Motorola phones are also known for their solid battery life. Alternatively, there are gadgets (like charging cases) that allow you to basically add more battery power to your mobile.
But all this is going to come down to compromise. If you want more battery power, then you might just have to go for a phone that isn't quite as thin, nor as light, as you'd like. Or you might end up not using your phone in quite the way you'd like to. Eliminating power draining apps, limiting the amount of time you spend with your phone screen switched on, stopping background syncs, all of these can help save battery power. But neither of these solutions is particularly ideal.
Why We Need New Tech
It should be clear from all this that the only way forward is for new battery tech to become available. Old style Li-ion batteries simply can't keep pace with the massive amounts of power we now need to run our top end phones. Unfortunately, we're unlikely to see any kind of revolutionary battery on the consumer market for at least a couple of years, and probably longer.
In the meantime, you might want to think about how much of a priority battery life is for you in a mobile. The only real solution to battery life problems at the moment is to buy a phone that sacrifices a little portability for a larger battery and to watch your phone use. And for now, that's really all that you can do.