Samsung battery

AH Primetime: The Smartphone Battery – How Long Can we Realistically Expect Our Battery to Last

November 26, 2013 - Written By Cory McNutt

We constantly complain about the battery life of practically anything that requires this outside source of power – flashlights, toys, boom boxes, controllers, keyboards, and mice, but for some reason we hold a special hatred for the batteries used in our smartphones – we wonder why there isn’t a battery that can last an entire week, although most of us would be happy with a couple of days. Have you ever opened up the hood of your car and looked at the battery? It is a rectangle block of heavy lead and acid engulfed in plastic – the design of which is 150 years old! Progress has always been slow in the battery field and once we find something that works, we stick with it – like our car battery – and improvements move on to other areas.

Next, take off the back of your smartphone (if you have a removable battery) and look at that battery – the design of which dates back 30 years – see what I mean, the battery field is slow to progress. When mobile phones were first used they were huge, mostly because of the battery needed to power the equipment and Nickel Cadmium Batteries or NiCD were the batteries of choice during the 1980s and 90s. But they were large, tended to overheat, and would build up a “memory effect,” and would not always fully charge after repeated use.

The next round of cell phone batteries were Nickel Metal Hydride, otherwise known as NiMH, which began in use during the later 1990s and had less problems with the memory effect issues, weighed less, was thinner, recharged quicker, and give the user more talk time.

This gave way to the Lithium Ion batteries, which are still used today because they are even thinner and lighter, charge even faster, had the longest usage so far, and have no memory effect to worry about.  They can be recharged many times and still maintain their charge, as well as being friendly to the environment, unlike previous smartphone batteries.

The latest addition to the battery chain for smartphones is the lithium poly icon, or Li-Poly battery.  It has 40-percent more power than the old NiMh batteries, plus it is extremely light and has no memory issues when charging.  However, these batteries are not yet commonly used, but should eventually find there ways into smartphones soon.

Battery usage on Note 3
Battery usage on Note 3

In a 2012, a J.D. Power and Associates survey of 7,080 smartphone owners found that while most users were happy with their mobile device, battery life was named as “one of the few attributes that have declined greatly from previous years.” We demand an awful lot from our smartphone battery – larger displays with sharper images, faster processors and GPUs, more memory, Bluetooth, turn-by-turn GPS, more data downloads, taking 13MP photos, sharing those, constant emails and text, live updates, NFL Mobile, videos, movies – you get the picture. But for all of the improvements in the battery itself, it is actually the improvements in the power saving techniques of the processors and operating systems powering our smartphones that have made the most improvements to battery life. That is one of the major items that Google concentrated on with their latest operating system, Android 4.4 KitKat. Qualcomm and Samsung are always aware of the battery issues when they design their processors and memory chips.

Now we have to add to the battery’s problems with flexible displays and “foldable” smartphones – both Samsung and LG have been working with different types of batteries. Samsung is looking into a flexible solid state battery and rope-type batteries that can even be tied in a knot and still work. LG Chem has flexible batteries already in mass production for use in their flexible phone and watch designs. Both manufacturers are already selling curved smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy Round and the LG G Flex, and this field is only going to grow, as well as all of the “wearable” devices starting to hit the market. And batteries will be needed to power those smartwatches and headgear, such as Google Glass, in the upcoming year.

Battery technology is certainly a hot topic and the company that can find the key to longer lasting batteries and one that charge extremely fast will make a fortune. The time is now, and as electronic devices continue to grow in number, so will the rewards for the company that discovers the secret to battery longevity. It still looks like it will be years away, but as an example, my Galaxy Note 3 (battery stats shown above) with its 5.7-inch Full HD screen, quad-core processor, and all of its features (mostly turned on), show that it has been off its charger 15 hours 8 minutes and 49 seconds and yet still has 52-percent of its battery left – some may complain about that, but not me. I sleep everyday and have no problem charging my Note 3 overnight – it has nothing better to do.

Let us know in the comments or on Google+ how your battery life is and if you are satisfied or you expect a few days or even a week on a charge – and be realistic.