In the past two years, mobile hardware makers have dazzled users with stunning new displays and powerful new features. And by powerful, I mean they use a lot of power and drain batteries.
As users have discovered, even the greatest of features isn’t so great when the battery is dead.
The good news is that the industry has been paying attention and is starting to respond with gadgets that get much better battery life.
Over the next two years we’ll see battery and power technologies catching up. And this big catch-up started this week.
Google today introduced version 4.3 of its Android operating system for mobile devices. And it includes some powerful improvements for reducing power consumption.
For example, it can now push location “geofencing” into the hardware, where it can be processed more efficiently than it can in software. It can also scan WiFi without the user actually turning WiFi on. The new Android also supports Bluetooth Smart, which Apple’s iPhone has supported for a long time.
Better battery management in Android is just the beginning.
Motorola, which is now owned by Google, announced this week a new phone called the Droid Maxx, which has at least one killer feature: A full 48 hours of battery life. In fact, Motorola announced three phones -- Droid Ultra, Droid Maxx and Droid Mini -- with a long list of advanced and surprising features. But the press and the blogs zeroed in on the Maxx’s insane battery life.
(Of course, this won’t matter unless you’re on Verizon -- the Motorola Droid lineup is incomprehensibly available in the United States only on that network starting August 20.) The Droid MAXX has a powerful battery -- a 3500 mAh monster -- one of the biggest batteries available from a mainstream handset manufacturer -- which can be conveniently charged with a wireless charging option. (mAh stands for “milliamp hours,” and it’s a standard unit for the amount of power a battery can store.)
Far more interesting is that the Droid Maxx takes a radical approach to battery management, using a comprehensive hardware approach, plus software, plus social engineering.
Wait, social engineering?
The Droid Maxx saves power in part by changing user behavior in a way that drains the battery less.
Motorola realized that users are constantly checking their phones for trivial purposes -- to check the time, see if anyone emailed or texted and to get social networking notifications.
Each time the phone is checked, the battery takes a hit: The entire phone has to come out of sleep mode, the entire screen is lit up, the phone fires up the WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS electronics and more.