Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Battery Woes for Mobile Devices

In the “old days”, you could get away for the weekend without the need to take your cell phone charger, much less have to recharge your battery.  But with the growing technology being built into smartphones and tablets today, powering these devices is draining batteries quickly.  Thereby, requiring you to be tethered to your charger and re-charging your battery during the day. 

Most smartphones today use Lithium ion batteries.  These batteries are approaching their power capacities, especially when you take into consideration that power requirements for all mobile devices are increasing at a rapid rate.  Smartphones and tablets crave battery power and battery technology is not keeping up the pace.

One problem with battery capacity involves the chemical nature of the battery itself.  Lithium ion battery technology hasn’t changed much in the last 15 years.  However, smartphone and tablet technology is changing very quickly.  These devices get faster processors, higher-resolution displays, and powerful new software updates every few months.  It’s been said that these handheld computers are more powerful than the hardware NASA used to send a man to the moon.  And with the varying high demands people are placing on their smartphones and tablets today, the battery is definitely the bottleneck.

Not only is the chemical and physical limits of batteries a problem, apps are also battery killers.  Free apps are among the worst offenders of inefficient power consumption.  Many of these apps use GPS technology to record your geographical location, download ads that are displayed within the apps, use the smartphone camera and compass tools, and even send information about you to advertisers over the Internet. 

Apple takes steps to examine an app’s power usage when deciding to approve it for sale in the App Store and will reject an app if they think it may intentionally ruin battery life.  Most seasoned app developers try not to use more battery life than they need to run their app.  Perhaps because users may delete their app or give it a low rating if they notice the drain on their battery.

Research has shown that advertising-related tasks typically take up 65% to 75% of the energy used to run a free app.  As with the popular game Angry Birds, only 25% of the energy used is actually used for playing the game – the advertising function uses 75%.  Games are not the only power hogs – applications can also utilize these methods of draining battery capacity. 

Many free apps today use embedded advertising software to send information to the Internet - such as updating user information, downloading ads, and for tracking users.  This software fails to close its connection to the Internet once these tasks take place therefore forcing another program to do the clean up and thereby wasting energy in the process.  Typically, this connection to the Internet should be complete within a fraction of a second.  However, research has found that  seven seconds per interaction can be wasted this way.  The thought is that software developers should modify apps to circumvent this problem. 

So, are free apps really “free”?  Not when you consider the costs of reduced battery life.  Batteries in mobile devices are very efficient compared to batteries used a decade ago – but they are reaching their capacity.  The use of smartphones and the app market will no doubt continue to increase in popularity.  But it is also likely that battery life and power consumption will remain a big factor in their usefulness.  Until battery technology picks up the pace with improvements in efficiency and software developers design apps for more efficient use of battery power, expect your smartphone or tablet battery to use more energy than really necessary. 

What can you do?  To further help you with your smartphone and tablet concerns, can give Kardon Tech a call.

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