Research by Microsoft is aimed at creating a smartphone that only needs to charge its battery once a week.
One of the collective dreams since the advent of smartphones has been to be able to charge the battery once a week rather than once a day. After the initial excitement of users upon discovering that they could check their email, social networks, chat for free, have access to maps and the Internet in general, all in the palm of their hand, complaints soon started about short battery life, and a longing for traditional mobile phones that could handle a week of camping without a hiccup.
But the truth is that no one – or at least not many – have gone back to the old Nokia or Motorola mobiles whose batteries lasted a week. But this doesn’t mean that the desire to charge the battery once a week and then forget about it has diminished at all in the hearts of smartphone users, especially when the low-battery warning pops up in the most inappropriate situations.
Microsoft is aware of this latent need and is devoting part of its efforts to building a smartphone that only needs to be charged once a week. But its research isn’t aimed at improving the batteries, rather at optimizing power consumption. The company’s idea is to increase efficiency thanks to software and hardware developments. Ranveer Chandra is one of the Microsoft researchers involved in the project, and he believes that there is currently a large margin for optimizing devices, because today’s terminals do not use batteries intelligently.
One of Microsoft’s proposals consists of something like splitting the phone’s battery into two smaller pieces. One would be in charge of providing power when demand is high, for example, when the user is running a video game, and the other would be responsible for supplying power in more moderate amounts. This idea came out of the inconsistent efficiency of batteries when they convert their stored energy into usable electricity.
Part of a battery’s energy is wasted, in the form of heat, for example, and these losses increase significantly when the electricity that must be provided differs a lot from the level for which the component is designed. Nowadays, devices normally have batteries that are optimized for an average load, to compensate for spikes in consumption and the dormant state. But the losses still occur at these two extremes. The Microsoft team has already built simple handsets with two lithium ion parts that are cable of increasing the cycle from 20% to 50%.
Another way is to control how much power is consumed by each application. Microsoft has created a tool so that developers can see how much power their software will use in a device so they can try to increase the efficiency. The company even has a prototype platform that identifies and monitors applications with greater power consumption, in order to stop their activity whenever possible.