By: Chris O'Shea
We love every aspect of our smartphones aside from one: The battery. The damn thing drains so quickly. If we had a dollar for every time we were out somewhere and noticed that our battery wasn't going to make it as long as we wanted, well, we'd probably have enough money to fund research to create a better damn battery. Luckily for us there are people out there right now trying to address this problem.
The cellphone drainage problem has to do with something called the "power amplifier." This tiny thing has been in cellphones for decades because it is a vital piece that transforms electricity into radio waves. Without it, our cellphones wouldn't work. But the power amplifier is also a battery killer. As Gizmodo explains,"The power amps in your phone are horribly inefficient: on average, they probably waste about 65 percent of the energy they are supplied with. To give some perspective, the iPhone 5 packs six separate power amps, which in total account for up to 60 percent of its power use, depending on what the phone’s used for."
That's a huge waste of power, and why we're always plugging in our phones; especially the "smart" ones. We can do a lot more on our iPhones, which means the power amplifier is being asked to do a lot more. Apple and other manufacturers understood this, of course, so they tried to mask its inefficiency. But there really has not been any cure.
"Power amplifiers use transistors that consume power in two basic modes: standby mode and output signal mode when sending out pulses of digital data," explains MIT Technology Review. "The only way to improve their efficiency is to use the lowest amount of standby power possible. But making sudden jumps from low-power standby mode to high-power output mode tends to distort signals, so existing technologies keep standby power levels high, wasting electricity."
This is where scientists at MIT get one over on Apple and others. A company founded by some engineers called Eta Devices has developed a new power amplifier that promises to double smartphone battery life. Imagine the freedom! You could — oh, we don't know — use your phone without worrying about killing the battery! Oh, and using less power would be good for the environment. But double battery life! You want to watch Police Academy on your phone and then make a call? Go ahead! Get crazy!
Joel Dawson and David Perreault, the co-founders, are now busy testing their "gearbox" power amplifier, that essentially chooses voltage depending on the situation. Dawson and Perreault hope that one day their product will make it into all smartphones, but it's still being tested for bugs. They said it might not be until 2015 when it makes its way into smartphones. For now, we just have to sit and wait. With our damn chargers within reach.
[Image via Flickr - Paul Hudson]