Anmol Shah, 25, a resident of Delhi recently bought a new flagship phone which he claims to have an average uptime of only 8 hours even after changing the refresh rate to 60hz. "I do not consider myself an avid user since I don’t play any games and my most used apps are WhatsApp and Chrome," he told The Quint.
While there is a great deal of excitement for new smartphone processors and cameras, one major challenge continues to persist — the disappointing battery life of smartphones.
Kirti Rani, 28, a Pune-based engineer said, "Mobile devices serve as our digital wallets, our alarm clocks, our social hubs, our news portals, and in many ways, our lives are becoming centred around our devices, but be it Apple or OnePlus, none of the devices last more than 12-16 hours."
Why Do We Need Phones With Bigger Battery Life?
Today, when almost nobody leaves their home without their smartphone, the demand for battery consumption has exponentially increased.
A study commissioned by handset maker Vivo, conducted by CMR, revealed that average usage of smartphones by Indians is estimated to have gone up 25 percent to almost 7 hours a day as people depend on these gadgets for work/study from home and entertainment amid the pandemic.
The report noted that since the onset of lockdown, Indians have been spending more time on their smartphone for calling (63 percent increase), and OTT has seen over 59 percent growth in time spent on smartphones.
This needs no argument that the bigger your phone battery is, the longer the run time. Also, a phone with great battery life can make a lot of difference to people who play online games, are active on social media and navigate through Google Maps, etc, in addition to making cellular calls and sending text messages.
Besides, many people who reside in the rural areas with limited access to power prefer a phone with long-lasting battery, the report added.
Why Haven’t Batteries Kept up With The Pace of Progress?
As mobile phone giants such as OnePlus, Apple, and Samsung release new mobile devices everyday – which are packed with strong processors, better displays, and expandable storages – the problem lies when most of the modern smart devices struggle to make it through a full day of use.
Back in the 90s, phones like Nokia 3310 had fantastic battery life, lasting for multiple days at a time without needing to be charged but the trend shows that the average uptime of mobile devices manufactured now is only 12-16 hours.
In an interview with The Verge, Venkat Srinivasan, director of the Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science and an expert in battery technology, described the issue very simply: Our phones have gotten better — and demanded more power — at a much faster rate than advancements in batteries have.
“Five years ago, it became clear we couldn’t remove any more things, there were fires. We’ve reached a stage where new improvements in energy density are going to come from changing battery materials, and new materials are always slower compared to what I would call engineering advances", he told in an interview with The Verge.
Today’s rechargeable batteries in phones are based on lithium cobalt, a technology that has been in use since the early 90s, and since then no new technology has been used to increase battery life of devices.
Now, with the implementation of 5G networks in India, battery consumption will further increase as users are likely to download huge chunks of data at a faster rate which will require phones to consume more juice.
Meanwhile, by the time new technologies emerge, our phones may be packed with faster processors which requires even more power. This could leave us right back with the same 12-14 hour battery life that we started with.
What's the Way Out?
A research by the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology has found a way to increase the lifetime of batteries significantly.
This research claims to solve a recurring problem for anyone who owns smartphones.
Professor Noriyoshi Matsumi and team published their latest findings in ACS Applied Energy Materials journal, which revealed that the widely used graphite anodes – the negative terminal – in a battery require a binder to hold the mineral together, but the binder currently in use has several drawbacks which does not make it an ideal binding material.
The researchers are now investigating a new type of material binder made from a substance called BP copolymer, which they believe could address the issue of smartphones running out of battery so quickly.