We all want our favourite devices to go longer between charges, but so far improvements have been incremental at best. Chin up though — here are 8 coming advancements that will ease life battery woes.
Battery technology is constantly getting better, but the extra life is just as quickly used up by new features and faster hardware. Which leaves us with laptops, tablets and phones that still need to be charged after a heavy day’s use.
Fortunately there are a lot of very smart people playing with a lot of cool technology so you can have an Apple Watch 2.0 that lasts more than a day.
Not all the coming advancements are about increasing capacity either – there are a lot of innovative ways the power situation is going to change.
Some other further away than others, but these are the technologies that will improve your next smartphone and laptop batteries.
Upgraded Lithium Technology
Rather than experimenting with exotic new chemistries in an attempt to build a better battery, some companies are instead improving what we already have.
Backed to the tune of $15 million by Dyson (who no doubt wants longer lasting batteries for their vacuums), Sakti3 is replacing the liquid electrolyte in batteries with a solid.
The upside here is the potential for double the storage capacity in the same size battery.
Other companies promise upgrades to existing tech, such as flexible batteries, or titanium oxide anodes that charge faster and last longer. New types of lithium ion batteries could also be safer than existing varieties.
Researchers at Amprius think silicon is the answer, using it to replace carbon in Lithium ion batteries to potentially double existing battery capacities.
Lithium Sulphur (currently in testing) also shows promise and could be easier and cheaper to produce, yet offer higher capacities.
Lithium Air promises energy densities higher than petrol, thanks to using outside oxygen in the reaction. But don’t hold your breath for this tech – it’s not expected to have the kinks worked out for at least the next 10 years.
One way to ease battery anxiety is fast charging – topping your phone up in just a few minutes makes like a whole lot less stressful.
New Snapdragon CPUs support Quick Charge, which (with a suitable charger) lets you regain up to 60% battery life in 30 minutes.
Only a limited amount of Android phones and tablets support the feature, but expect it to make an appearance on more devices in the future.
Just don’t believe the (obviously false) rumours that you can fast charge your iPhone in a microwave.
New battery technology is always coming, but for gains right now, manufacturers are re-thinking how they use and install batteries.
The new Apple Macbook is a great example. iFixit did a recent teardown and found the laptop is almost all battery – the hardware is squeezed onto a tiny motherboard.
But more importantly, Apple boffins have built multi-layer terraced batteries that fit more into the super thin body.
This smart approach actually lets them fit 35% more capacity into the laptop whilst still keeping it as slim as possible.
It’s not just laptops either – smartphones from as long ago as the LG G2 have used terraced batteries to increase capacity without increasing in size.
A Focus On Efficiency
Rather than trying to improve battery capacity, manufacturers are working to improve your devices efficiency.
New CPUs such as the Core M family from Intel use less than half the power compared to previous CPUs with similar performance.
They also generate so little heat that further power can be saved by not needing a cooling fan.
Software controls and other tweaks can also help improve how long you can keep away from the charger. From tweaking Wi-Fi settings to killing electron hungry apps, you can get more from your existing battery.
For those who have gotten used to the ease of wireless charging, going back to wires and fiddly plugs is almost unthinkable.
While you may have an all-day battery, the ability to grab some extra charge every time you set your phone down means you are almost always fully charged.
You can even get wireless charging power banks and car holders. If your device doesn’t support charging without wires, there are various add on batteries and cases that can help out.
Ikea has recently announced a line of furniture that includes built in QI wireless chargers, so you don’t even need an extra pad.
Intel is also pushing wireless charging technologies, including for your laptop.
While many high end phones support wireless charging, it does need a plastic or glass back and slightly increases the weight and thickness.
Still, it’s the future of charging, and you can expect wireless functionality to be included in more and more devices in the near future.
Forget about batteries entirely – super capacitors offer many advantages.
Of course, there are still plenty of hurdles before they will replace the battery in your phone or laptop.
A recent breakthrough from a team at UCLA Berkley has produced a fasting charging, paper thin supercapacitor.
Importantly, it can also match the sort of energy densities found in current batteries.
The super capacitor can charge very quickly and handle 10,000 charge discharge cycles. While that may seem like overkill for your phone, knowing your battery won’t degrade as it ages will be nice.
The problem (for now) with super capacitors is that they are very expensive to make, typically self-discharge quickly and are larger (despite being thin) than batteries.
No one wants to have to leave their phone or laptop in the sun to charge, but a solar panel could capture ambient light to extend battery life.
The Tag Heuer Meridiist Infinite smartphone has already experimented with the idea – hiding a solar panel inside the screen itself.
It can’t actually run the phone forever, but can give a bit more talk time or let you boost power in an emergency.
At Mobile World Congress 2015, Kyocera also showed off similar tech. The company claims that just 10 minutes in the sun can give a phone up to 100 extra minutes of standby time – not bad!
Using what they call Wysips Crystal technology, screen clarity and brightness is unaffected.
While solar power will never replace the need to charge your phone, every little bit of extra battery life counts.
Out of juice but no power points around? A power bank is a great portable solution, but what if it is flat or you don’t have one handy?
Some gadgets are now offering reverse charging. The Huawei Ascend Mate 2 can feed power out via Micro USB so you can share the charge with other devices.
While not a perfect solution, it’s a handy feature that could get you out of trouble when you just need a little extra power.