I had a few moments at SxSW where I had to plug in my phone in a coffee shop or the back of a hotel ballroom because little provision is made for our energy consumption needs at most conferences, and certainly not at SxSW. In one case, I was several hundred feet from a friend doing a talk, so I could barely hear, because I needed to stay on line to try to connect with other friends.
But the deeper truth is that we are suffering the Spider’s Brain dilemma. A spider’s brain encircles its esophagus, and as the brain has evolved in size, spiders have progressive moved from solid food to drinking the fluid remnants of their prey after it is partially digested by injected digestive agents. So they have reached a limit — at least without evolving a very different shape for their exoskelton.
We are reaching the limits of power on mobile devices, especially if we are going to be using more apps that self-synchronize with the outside world, or run in the background, and also because 4G wireless will require more power.
My single biggest takeaway from SXSW was all the talk about battery life. Every single person. All the time. People changing plans because they needed to recharge their phones. People walking around with chargers. People who were chargers. Mophies galore. People uninstalling apps that would drain power. People putting phones into airplane mode in areas of weak signal. People borrowing other phones so they didn’t have to waste the power on their phone.
Power. Power. Power.
This talk is nothing new of course, but it’s ramping up. As we transition into an LTE world, it’s going to be more and more of an issue, as Farhad Manjoo points out today. One of the most impressive things about the new iPad is the fact that it maintains the 9 to 10 hour battery life even with the addition of LTE. The next question is if they can do that with the iPhone as well. We’ll see. It’s gonna need a bigger battery.
Manjoo is right that unlike the rest of the technology we use everyday, battery technology hasn’t evolved all that much over the past few decades. It’s constantly being refined and perfected, but it’s still largely the same. Want more battery life? Get a bigger battery.
If someone can truly disrupt this space, it will act as a lubricant that accelerates our already amazing pace of technological transformation.
Maybe wireless power sources that constantly charge and re-charge devices is the ultimate answer. But it just seems like battery technology is really ripe for disruption.
I agree. But with the proviso that the solution might come from a breakthrough in chips that might require significantly less power. Changing either side of the equation — or both — is the real opportunity.