A Winner and a Loser in the Smartphone Powering Derby

Carl Weinschenk

Battery life remains one of the biggest challenges to the future of 4G networks and advanced smartphones. Smartphones' ambitious features, combined with demands from faster networks, make upgraded power sources a necessity.


During the past few weeks, the battery status of two major new phones, the HTC EVO 4G and the iPhone 4, have come under scrutiny. The verdict is that one of the vendors has confronted the challenged with admirable results, and the other hasn't.


Enterprise Mobility Today cites Wall Street Journal technology writer Walter Mossberg's claim that the battery charge on his HTC EVO didn't last a full day. The story offers reasons for the increased power draw. The bottom line is that power demand won't go down, and manufacturers must find ways to increase device efficiency and build better batteries.

The good news is that there seem to be a lot of corners that can be cut to increase efficiency. While this jk on the Run piece focuses on how to hike efficiency on the EVO 4G specifically, the basic approach no doubt would stretch the soup for any smartphone. The writer offers an exhaustive discussion of adjustments to three types of settings -- system, user and application -- as ways to shave demand on the battery.

The upbeat news on the battery front is from Apple. The iPhone 4 has taken the challenge head on. A review in Hollywood Today gives the company credit:

An inconvenience with earlier iPhones was their short battery life. However the 4g's Li-ion battery with the assistance of the new A4 chip provides efficient power management prolonging battery life for the by 40%. Being an iPhone owner I can tell you that this is a much needed and appreciated addition to the 4g allowing more talk time, 40 hours of music and 10 hours of video per charge.

A 40 percent increase -- in talk time, not in battery life-was cited in a "pro and con" story on the new iPhone at CIO. Whether the different phrasing (talk time versus battery life) is significant or due to carelessness by one of the writers is unclear. In practical terms, CIO says, talk time moves from five hours on the iPhone 3GS to seven hours on the iPhone 4. The new version, the story says, offers six hours of 3G browsing, 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing, 40 hours of music, 10 hours of video and 300 hours of standby time. The story credits Apple with those figures, so they should be taken with a grain of salt until proven in the field.


Increased efficiency and improved traditional batteries will go far-but only so far. During the past few years, innovative new approaches have emerged. Indeed, this is a particularly active area due to related research on green power sources for motor vehicles and other larger items. For instance, the Horizon MiniPak -- a hydrogen fuel cell for small devices-is an offshoot of research on in-home fuel cells. Home Fuel Cells Technology says that the product delivers two to three times the charge of a smartphone battery and four to six times the battery charge of a traditional cell phone.

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