Instead of focusing on faster charging, why not focus on longer battery life?

Instead of focusing on faster charging, why not focus on longer battery life?

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The recent announcement from the University of Colorado about a breakthrough that could allow smartphones to fully charge in one minute is definitely worth the excitement. The idea of plugging in your phone for just 60 seconds and then getting to enjoy a full charge is undoubtedly cool. However, although this innovation is impressive, it raises a very important question: why aren’t we focusing on developing batteries that can last longer instead?

The numbers game: fast-charging obsession

It’s been at least a couple of years since we’re having a competition on fast charging. Chinese phones constantly surprise us with faster and faster charging speeds, while getting a “slow” charging solution like the 25W on the iPhone 15 Pro Max gets us somewhat disappointed. But it gets even more intense.

The research that sparked this article was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The report highlights a technique involving the movement of ions through supercapacitors. According to researcher Ankur Gupta, this advancement could enable phone batteries to charge from 0% to 100% in one minute by making the ions move more efficiently.

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Gupta’s work shows an improvement in understanding ion movement within the porous materials of supercapacitors… All this (cool but complicated) science talk pretty much means – rapid energy storage and discharge.

While this innovation is exciting, it seems to prioritize convenience over necessity. Fast charging is beneficial, yes, but there’s a more pressing issue that smartphone users have: the need for longer-lasting batteries.

The real need that this new tech is misunderstanding

You’re probably quite familiar with the daily ritual of recharging your device. Heck, that’s one of the main reasons I went for an iPhone 13 Pro Max when I was upgrading a couple of years ago – I was just done with needing to baby a battery.

Despite the advances in battery technology, most phones still struggle to last beyond a day of heavy use. And I remember a time when plugging in devices for charging wasn’t a part of my evening routine. A battery that could last for three days or even a week on a single charge would be a game-changer, eliminating the constant anxiety of a dying phone and the need for power banks.

The focus on fast-charging technology appears to not be an ideal solution. To me, it seems like putting a band-aid on a broken wrist… I want to know that my phone can last through a long day of work, travel, video-taking, and obsessive social media scrolling without the fear of running out of power. The concept of a phone that can go for several days without needing to be plugged in is far more appealing to me than the ability to recharge it in just a minute.

The longevity of the battery is a thing (and so is the health of our environment)

Let’s not focus on myself for a moment here. Beyond convenience, longer-lasting batteries have significant benefits for the environment. Producing and getting rid of batteries doesn’t help the health of our planet.

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Batteries contain hazardous materials that require careful handling. By extending the battery life, we will need fewer battery replacements and thus we ensure our planet stays healthy for longer. Yep, this would help reduce electronic waste.

On top of that, we won’t need to get battery replacements as often so it’s a good idea economically too. In the long run, a long-lasting battery would mean we get more value from our phones and save money.

Potential issue: smaller batteries?!

And here’s a very annoying elephant in the fast-charging-battery room. The push for quicker charging times could lead manufacturers to develop lower-capacity batteries. This reduction in battery capacity to make room for fancy sensors, more powerful chips, ultra-supernatural cameras, and what have you, might make the problem of short battery life even worse. It can create a vicious cycle where we are even more dependent on fast-charging technologies.Imagine a scenario where, because of the advancements in fast charging, phone manufacturers decide to dramatically reduce the battery capacity to make devices slimmer or to add more features. This trade-off could result in phones that need to be charged multiple times a day (!!!) despite fast charging. We might find ourselves in a worse situation, carrying a charger or power bank everywhere we go.

So what should we do?

Although fast charging solutions like the one by Gupta are innovative, it is very important to find the right balance with improvements in battery longevity. The future of smartphones should not be defined by how quickly they can charge but by how long they can work without needing to be charged again.

Basically, developing batteries that can last several days or even weeks on a single charge would address the root problem instead of providing a workaround.

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On top of that, we already have promising technologies in the works that focus on increasing battery life. For example, we’re seeing research on solid-state batteries. Xiaomi recently managed to experiment with solid-state batteries and include a 6,000mAh battery cell in a test Xiaomi 13 phone.

Similarly, the use of graphene in batteries could lead to significant improvements in capacity and longevity. Yep, this tech is not there yet (it’s very complex to produce at the moment). But it should be giving us a more user-friendly battery life experience.

Also, many people want longer battery life, it’s not just me. In our poll in 2022, the smartphone feature that matters the most to you was… drumroll please… battery life!

It’s clear as day – the manufacturer who manages to come up with a longer battery life for a phone (without adding bulk, weight, etc.) will have a significant competitive advantage over all the companies focusing on ultrasonic-or-speed-of-light battery charging.

Conclusion

The excitement surrounding the University of Colorado’s fast-charging breakthrough is understandable, but it should not divert our attention from the need for longer-lasting batteries. A focus on battery longevity will bring better user experience, reduce electronic waste, and – well, make my life (and many other people’s) easier.

It’s time to rethink our priorities and aim for a future where smartphones stay charged for days, not just minutes…



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