The battery life on my iPhone 6s Plus is great. And it sucks. I remember reading more than 10 years ago, long before the iPhone became a glint in Steve Jobs’ eye, that battery technology was on the verge of a breakthrough where batteries for anything would last months.
That was then and this is now and all my iPhone gives me is about a day’s worth of use. Just like the iPhone did back in 2007. Even Apple recognizes the problem. iPhone owners use their devices for apps, videos, music, games, camera, and more; all of which requires more power (CPU) which requires more power (battery).
The weakest link in mobile technology is the old one. The battery.
Just Around The Corner
Every year for the past dozen years we’ve read news stories and viewed TV news about how battery technology is about to be revolutionized with longer lasting, less expensive batteries; and more recently about powerful home-based batteries which can use the sun to harness power from the sun.
But here we are, moving rapidly into the 21st century, and about all I can get from my iPhone’s battery– and it’s a big one– is a day of use.
What’s going on?
To be fair, battery technology has improved in recent years, right? Or, has it? The battery in one of my Seiko watches will last a year. I have a Citizen watch which doesn’t even need a battery to be replaced every year. But my Watch? It needs to be recharged every night.
The batteries in my old Magic Mouse last, at best, a week. The batteries in my Mac’s wireless keyboard last a couple of months. The battery in my iPhone? Overnight.
Back in the day, the early days of the iPhone, circa 2007, Apple said the built-in battery would last for 8 hours of talk time and a mere 6 hours of internet use. The list of what an iPhone can do in 2015 is lengthy, but battery life has improved. Talk time on my iPhone 6s Plus is up to 24 hours on 3G but internet use is a mere 12 hours, double that of the 2007 model, for 3G, LTE, and Wi-Fi.
Battery life remains about the same– a day for most of us– but we’re asking the battery to do more by powering ever faster CPUs, graphic chips, and higher resolution screens, not to mention the number of background apps, alerts, and notifications going on all the time.
Battery life may be lagging the advancements that Apple has pushed onto mobile technology but it has improved enough to keep up with the changes and still give us about a day of usage. Look at what’s inside your iPhone these days. The Touch ID fingerprint sensor, a barometer, the three-axis gyroscope, accelerometer, a proximity sensor, and ambient light sensor. Add to that GPS, the digital compass, Wi-Fi, and a few dozen cellular radio bands, plus Bluetooth and NFC.
There’s a lot going on in the iPhone and batteries have improved sufficiently to help all that power and capability to run– for a full day. Mostly. So, what’s the problem with batteries? Two words. Physics. Chemistry. While chips can get smaller and faster and need less power, and software can become more complex and capable, the laws of physics and chemistry are pushed to the limit for modern mobile device batteries. As much as batteries have leaped forward to deliver more power in a smaller space to a power hungry device, it’s still the weakest link in mobile technology.
New technological advances have come along which can recharge a smartphone or tablet battery in minutes instead of hours. The problem seems to be getting them to market; manufacturing anything new costs more because older battery technology– even based upon the constraints of physics and chemistry– has been fine tuned to deliver billions of batteries a year.
The battery is the weakest link in Apple’s entire supply change, and having $200-billion in the bank won’t solve the problem. Maybe the battery problem hasn’t been solved because powers-that-be don’t want it solved. Does anyone think the oil industry wants to see an electric car batter that can be re-charged in 5 minutes but last for 1,000 miles? Does the current mobile device battery industry, mostly lithium ion, want to see a new fangled battery that re-charges in five minutes and lasts for a week?
I see a place where Apple could put some of that cash to use working on technology that would benefit not just Apple but all of Apple’s Mac using, iPhone and iPad toting, Watch wearing, and Car driving customers.