The Maxx and other Motorola phones use a revolutionary new approach. A dedicated system-on-a-chip technology called the X8, developed in Motorola’s smartwatch group, displays notifications and the time on the screen using only the minimum number of pixels required on the Super AMOLED screen. Every few seconds, the latest data quietly appears on screen, then fades away.
That enables users to check data without turning on the phone -- or even touching it.
While many might think that having the phone “always on” would drain battery, in fact it does the opposite. It means the phone, compared with regular usage of other phones, is rarely on -- it doesn’t have to be fully on in order for users to check for updates.
Motorola calls the X8 an 8-core chip. Designed specifically for Android, it has two application processor cores, four graphics cores, a “contextual computing core,” (including a low-power way to maintain location information) and a natural language processing core.
All this separation of different computing tasks, plus software to go with it, plus the giant battery, enables the Droid Maxx’s epic battery life.
A newish phone called the Philips Xenium W8510 has a battery nearly as powerful as the Maxx’s -- a 3300mAh monstrosity.
Apparently optimized to extend battery life for use of the phone, the Xenium W8510 offers 35 days of standby time 14 hours of using the web over WiFi. The downside is that the phone may be available only in Japan, for some reason.
While the Droid Max may have the biggest battery in the US, a Chinese-made smartphone to be sold only in China called the Oppo Find 7 may have the biggest in the world -- a 4,000mAh battery.
It may not achieve the 48-hour battery life that Motorola claims for the Droid Maxx, however, unless it has comparable battery management electronics and software.
Everybody, including and especially me, are talking about the coming wearable computing revolution. This movement will take place mainly in the form of wristwatches, but also in less mainstream applications like the Google Glass headset.
Everything the industry needs to make these wearable devices mainstream is present -- the tiny, high-rez screens, low-powered Bluetooth Smart, embedded operating systems, notifications infrastructures and more.
The only thing holding up the show is battery life.
Specifically, Google Glass testers (the device is in pre-beta, and won’t ship until the end of next year at the earliest) have been disappointed by battery life. Although Glass isn’t designed to be used constantly, but rather occasionally, constant use burns through the tiny batteries in about two hours.
The best battery life for currently shipping smartwatches is typically about a day, and many aren’t lasting nearly that long. Those that last longer have low-rez, low-powered displays, which are less appealing to consumers.
Apple even has a patent for flexible batteries that form part of the watch’s wristband. The battery issue may be one reason why industry insiders don’t expect an Apple iWatch until late next year at the earliest.
Either way, the wearable revolution isn’t going to happen unless the kind of radical thinking now improving mobile phone battery life is applied to wearable devices.
For now, however, we can look forward to radical improvements in battery life for our smartphones.
I hope better battery trend lasts for a long time.