Android Headliner: When Will Battery Technology Truly Advance on Mobile Devices?

Samsung Galaxy S5 Battery AH 1

With every new smartphone, tablet, or even wearable, there is one common complaint. Battery Life. Although a few smartphones and tablets have managed to get around it, many of them still get that complaint. We’ve seen just about every other spec in our mobile devices advance over the past few years, except for one. Which is the battery. Sure battery life has gotten better. Just looking back at my Galaxy Nexus from 2011, to the LG G2 or even the Samsung Galaxy S5 in late 2013 and early 2014 respectively, they have really improved in battery life. But we’re also comparing an 1,800 mAh battery in the Galaxy Nexus to the 2,800 mAh battery in the Galaxy S5. I know, I know the screen is bigger on the Galaxy S5, as well as a more powerful processor, etc. But that’s really where the battery technology has advanced. Just throwing in a larger battery.

Now we have seen some better battery optimization coming out of companies like Motorola, LG, Samsung and HTC. In fact with the HTC One (M8) and the Samsung Galaxy S5, we have Ultra Power saving modes, even though each OEM calls it something slightly different. I actually really like Samsung’s way of implementing it. But what about longer battery life without using these ultra power saving modes? You’ve heard me talk about the G2 a lot when I was reviewing the HTC One and the Galaxy S5. That’s because the G2’s battery life is amazing. And it’s only a 3000mAh battery in there, which is just 200mAh larger than the Galaxy S5’s. So how did they do it? Well one way is software optimization. Another is that they are using a stepped battery. Which allows them to cram more mAh’s into the corners of the device, instead of wasting that space. Motorola and LG are both doing this with their devices, and it shows. The Droid Maxx has a 3500mAh battery and it’s not much thicker than most of it’s competitors.

There are battery breakthroughs happening though, it’s just that we aren’t seeing them in newer phones. Manufacturers think that bigger is better, which they are right when it comes to batteries, but there is more that can be done here. Researchers at the Materials and Surface Science Institute (MSSI), Univ. of Limerick stated, “The typical lithium-ion battery on the market today is based on graphite and has a relatively low capacity. This limits the amount of energy which can be stored. In our research we used an alternative element, germanium, which is of a higher-capacity. The challenge has been that the material expands quite dramatically during charging and falls apart after a relatively small number of cycles. By using nanotechnology, we have found a way to restructure germanium, in the form of nanowires, into a stable porous material that is an ideal battery material as it remains stable over very long time scales during continued operation.”

So they are working on more breakthroughs, they just aren’t here yet. So I guess we’ll just have to settle for the bigger and better batteries for a few more years. But it’s great to see Qualcomm with their Quick Charge 2.0 software in processors like the Snapdragon 800-series. Mixed with the USB 3.0 connection on the Samsung Galaxy S5, it charges pretty quickly. Almost insanely quick. I can usually go from under 20% to 100% in a little over an hour. Which is pretty good if you ask me.

So what does everyone think? Will we see some more breakthroughs – that the consumer will see and use – in battery technology in the next year or so? Or are we going to be seeing phones with 4000mAh batteries next year and think those are tiny? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.