It’s the smartphone holy grail: a handset that can last for more than a day or two on a charge. As the technology surrounding processors, displays and other smartphone components continues to progress at a breakneck pace, battery technology drags along and holds everything else back. In fact, smartphones would have progressed much further by now if powering them wasn’t so difficult with modern battery tech.
According to a research team at Microsoft, however, battery technology isn’t entirely at fault here. Instead, smartphone makers can and should create hardware and software that manages power better, and Microsoft is aiming to build a phone with week-long battery life using its discoveries.
“You can’t just wait for the best battery technology to come along,” Microsoft researcher Ranveer Chandra said Monday at the Digital Summit in San Francisco, MIT Technology Review reported. “We can make a lot of progress because systems today don’t use battery intelligently.”
Chandra says that while some hardware capability has improved exponentially in recent years, batteries’ capacity to store energy efficiently has only doubled in the past decade and a half.
The researcher and his team are working on a number of hardware and software optimizations that might dramatically improve smartphone battery life in the near future. Among them, MIT Technology Review reports that the team has created a new system that uses two smaller smartphone batteries instead of one.
The most radical idea Chandra’s team is testing is to give devices two smaller lithium-ion batteries instead of one large one. One would be optimized to efficiently provide a large supply of current, for example when a person is playing games on a phone. The other would be designed to trickle out smaller currents, such as when a phone is idle. Chandra and colleagues have built simple prototypes that could improve battery life 20 to 50 percent, he said.
Beyond smartphones, the report notes that tinier devices such as smartwatches could potentially benefit tremendously from the research Chandra and his team are doing.