Today, mobile devices require near-daily charging under typical usage. This arises from the limitation of the battery size and drain from the components. Even with my Z30, which has relatively legendary battery life, it still needs that daily charge at night to live another day. Wouldn’t it be nice if the device just never needed charging? Well, it’s only a matter of time. We know that BlackBerry has thought about using their QWERTY keyboard as fuel cell for generating power, but here the upcoming revolutions in smartphone power which I think will come much sooner.
With the continuous improvement of high-efficiency solar cells, the inevitable conclusion to smartphone and tablet charging is mounting a solar cell on them. With the best currently-verified solar cell converting 37.8% of power from the sun into electrical power under normal conditions (and there are new records every year), a Z30 with solar cells covering the back would produce over 3.8 Watts of power when in direct sunlight. Not bad considering that’s almost the same as a typical USB charger at 4.5 Watts!
But we are fussy people. It’s going to add thickness and weight to the smartphone. Such a solar cell is about half a millimetre thick and probably weighs over 10 grams. Blasphemous stats on a mobile device, I know! And what if you drop it and it shatters? Not to worry, however, since there are companies who can peel the top layers off the solar cell so that it becomes ultra-thin, ultra-light and even flexible!
Let’s be realistic though. We’re probably looking at a drop in efficiency at down to about 30% for those type of cells after all is said and done. But these cells would be able to conform to virtually any surface like a sticker and be integrated with your smartphone or tablet’s battery to keep you going for as long as possible. Even if its not lying in direct sun, it’ll still slowly charge your battery with the ambient light, further maximizing battery life.
Now, this doesn’t come cheap since this is quite advanced stuff. But considering the amount we pay each year for our smartphones, the cost of integrating high efficiency solar cells into them is just a small fraction of the total cost and would add invaluable convenience.
Now let’s say you live in Antarctica, under a rock, or a vampire living in Forks, Washington where the sun simply doesn’t shine often enough sometimes. There are solutions for that too!
The speed of innovation of batteries has been picking up lately with the hype around electric cars. Researchers at the University of California are developing battery technologies for fast charging lithium ion batteries. Using clusters of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and silicon, they can improve a part of the battery so that it produces up to 63% more power while being 40% lighter.
Ever imagined hooking up your phone to a cable and unplugging it after seconds instead of hours, leaving with a full charge? Daydream no more! Some people are working on rapid charging which can charge your smartphone in under 30 seconds!
This was demonstrated with a Samsung Galaxy device and a (granted, rather bulky) charging attachment, but it is advancing. While fast-charging can possible lead to reduced battery life, there are ways to make fast charging safer for the lithium ion batteries we use. You can also imagine that fast charging stations out in public areas can quickly get your device a charge when you’re running low.
I’m hoping that these technologies can trickle down for consumer devices as these are the types of innovations that are needed in smartphones. All these new apps, sensors, and functionality are great, but when you have to worry if you can make an important call or text in a few hours, all those features become worthless. Being a BlackBerry user, battery life is crucial to me and these are some innovations that will inevitably arrive to smartphones soon or later (sooner is better!).
Let us know what you think will happen regarding smartphone charging in the future with a comment below!