Would you sacrifice battery life for better performance? [Editorial]

As we push further and further into the future of technological innovation, our devices get better, faster, slimmer, more efficient and more powerful. When it comes to tech innovation – particularly in mobile device – there is one inescapable correlation that is almost impossible to avoid. It’s the fact that as we make our devices more powerful and more capable, we place an ever-increasing workload on the batteries that power our devices. In short, the more powerful a device is, the shorter the battery life. Now, I’m well aware that very soon, this won’t really be a problem, because our battery technology will get much better in the future. Soon, we’ll be able to use our phones for longer than ever before. We’ll also be able to charge our device using water, kinetic energy and so on… However, that is still a little way off, and tonight (this afternoon for you, I’m British don’t you know?) I’d like to focus on the compromise that we have to make right now. Would you rather have a powerful device that isn’t quite so generous on battery life, or would you prefer to have a slightly less capable device that doesn’t need charged every day?

The evolution of the iPad over its 4 year life span has seen a plethora of changes brought to everyone’s favourite tablet. We’ve seen a huge increase in RAM, in wireless capabilities, in imaging technology and CPU and GPU capability, however battery life, hasn’t changed at all. Alongside the storage capacity and the mechanical keys on the outer shell of the device, battery life is the only consistent feature of the iPad. But is that a bad thing? When you think about it, it’s actually a tremendous feat of engineering that Apple has been able to implement so many tech improvements without compromising the device’s battery life; especially when you consider that one of those features was the power-hungry Retina Display. The same can be said of the iPhone, and in fact all of Apple’s portable devices. By clever feats of engineering/witchcraft Apple has kept the battery life of its devices consistent.

With some minor modifications, the iPad’s battery doubles as a sandwich toaster…

The fact that the battery life of these devices hasn’t changed could have a slightly negative connotation however. First off, it might fuel the notion that Apple isn’t really doing enough to make its batteries better; but it could also suggest that the desire to keep battery life at its current standard is limiting the current rate of innovation in our devices. As any Android fan will tell you, plenty of mobile devices ship with much higher specs than the iPhone or the iPad. This shows us that despite the high performance of iDevices, there is more advanced, more powerful technology available. Now we know that better technology is available, what’s stopping Apple from putting it into their devices? It could be a bid to keep costs down, but that doesn’t sound very much like Apple. And besides, many of those more powerful devices come at the same price as the iPhone, or sometimes even cheaper. I think that the stagnating evolution of battery technology is probably the reason. For a very long time, Apple’s devices have included a built-in, rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery, and whilst tweaks and changes have been made to this to force out small improvements over time, there hasn’t really been any major changes made to the batteries used in Apple’s devices.

Until Apple finds a way to drastically improve the batteries it uses in its mobile devices, we really can’t expect too many drastic hardware improvements. In one sense, Apple may have shot itself in the foot with this one. Many of the more powerful Android phones are powered by larger batteries housed in larger outer shells, for example, the Samsung Galaxy S3. However, Apple’s habit of only ever making its device smaller, thinner and lighter means that it would be very difficult to backtrack. It would be a really big shock if Apple released an iPad, or and iPhone in the future, that had a larger form factor than previous versions, it just seems counter productive.

That being said, how do you feel about the prospect of hardware being limited by a devices’ battery. Would you like to see more powerful hardware in your device, even if it meant sacrificing battery life? Or would you prefer it if Apple make significant progress developing better battery technology, before giving its devices some beefed up hardware to match? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to hit me up on the Twitters @TiP_Stephen


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  • The future of technological innovation, our devices get better, faster, slimmer, more efficient and more powerful.