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New battery technologies that will ease your fears of running out of juice

Smartphone Battery Tech Tricks

Smartphones are becoming more and more sophisticated mobile PCs, yet device makers still haven’t figured out how to significantly improve their battery lives. Instead, handset makers are deploying various “fixes” in place, meant to ensure that battery life if on par with expectations from customers and that phones can last through at least a day of use.

This year’s Mobile World Congress brought us a slew of hot mobile devices that will be available in stores later this year, and many of them employ various energy-saving techniques, as well as fast-charging capabilities that are meant to ensure better battery experiences.

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Charging a phone in 15 minutes

Chinese handset maker Oppo demoed one of the hottest battery-charging techniques we’ve seen in a while. In under 15 minutes, a 2,500 mAh can reach a full charge, meaning you never have to worry about carrying an external battery case with you. The technology is very exciting but will only be available on Oppo hardware later this year.

Galaxy S7’s Fast wireless charging

Wireless charging is also a trick phone makers can employ to improve your battery-charging experience. The Galaxy S7 has wireless charging that works faster than before. What that means is that the phone supports the latest wireless charging specification, which is 15 watts Qi wireless charging.

LG G5’s Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0

Just like Oppo, Qualcomm has its own fast battery charging technology called Quick Charge. Compatible devices can charge up to four times faster via Quick Charge 3.0 than using a regular charger. Devices supporting Quick Charge 3.0 include the newly unveiled LG G5 and Xiaomi Mi 5. Samsung’s latest phone only comes with Quick Charge 2.0 out of the game, which is 75% faster than regular charging.

Xperia X’s Qnovo fast-charging and increased life cycle

The Xperia X announced earlier this week represents Sony’s latest smartphone series that includes three devices: The Xperia X Performance, the Xperia X and the Xperia XA. The company revealed at MWC 2016 that the Xperia X line will come preloaded with Qnovo fast-charging battery tech that will also expand the overall lifespan of the battery.

Qnovo tech will deliver fast charging times (5-minute charge equals, at least, two hours of battery life), extended life cycle (up to 800 cycles, almost twice the life of competing devices) and battery life of up to two days.

This is a software solution that might find its way to other smartphones in the future.

User-replaceable batteries

I know what you’re thinking, this is hardly new battery-charging tech. That’s true, but the LG G5 does it in a way no other phone did it before. The company created a modular high-end device out of metal whose battery can be easily replaced by the user. One thing LG didn’t consider was finding a way to include a built-in battery in the phone that would keep the phone running during the main battery’s replacement. That means the phone will still die on you when you replace the battery.

Always-on displays

One other technology that can be used to maximize battery life is the always-on display. The Galaxy S7, the Galaxy S7 edge, and the LG G5 all have AMOLED screens whose screens can stay on at all times as they’re highly efficient. That means you won’t have to turn on the handset just to check on missed notifications all the time, as the always-on display will tell you if there’s anything requiring your attention. This particular screen technology should lead to better battery life across the board, but that will vary depending on the user.

Fast-charging laptop and tablet batteries

One thing that caught my eye at MWC 2016 is fast-charging laptop and tablet batteries. At least two brand new devices will pack such tech, including the absolutely gorgeous Huawei MateBook and the Lenovo Yoga 510 series.

The MateBook offers 9 hours of battery life and reaches a full charge in 2.5 hours. One hour of charging will get you a 60% charge.

The Lenovo Yoga 510 laptop also does stellar battery life: 8.5 hours of regular use. The device can be recharged in 2.5 hours, just like the MateBook, using Lenovo’s Yoga Rapid Recharge technology.

Solar cells in the screen

Certain smartphone vendors are also toying with the idea of placing solar cells in the smartphone’s display. Kyocera demoed such a device at the show, a rugged handset that packs an ultra-thin solar panel between the LCD and the touchscreen layer. Three minutes of sunlight give the user one minute of talk time, which is an improvement over the previous version (24-minute sun exposure for one minute of talk time). Still, don’t expect this tech to be built into too many consumer devices in the near future.

Water-and-salt batteries

Swedish fuel cell startup myFC showed off fuel cell charging technology for external batteries. A cartridge containing salt and water can fully charge a smartphone in two hours though it’s not clear when the device will be out.

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.