The lowly battery: It’s one of the most important parts of any modern-day gadget, yet it’s been one of the slowest pieces of the technology puzzle to evolve. That smartphone in your pocket is exponentially more powerful than the first computer you ever used, yet you still have to plug it in every night.
We’ve had access to lithium-ion battery technology for more than 20 years now, and while batteries have gotten more efficient over time, it’s been advancements in power management tricks and ever-smaller components used by modern gadgets that have picked up most of the slack.
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When Apple announced the iPhone 4, for instance, the company touted its new “A4″ processor as more nimble and efficient, but Apple also pointed out that the A4’s custom design meant that the chip could be shrunken down and, in turn, a larger, higher-capacity battery could be installed in the phone.
And when Samsung launched its 7-inch tablet, the Galaxy Tab, a teardown of the device revealed that its battery took up most of the internal space.
While shrinking internal components can lead to longer battery life thanks to the simple addition of bigger batteries, advancements in power management techniques can help increase battery life as well. You may have noticed that even relatively inexpensive laptops can clear eight hours with ease thanks to more efficient processors; some business laptops can even clear a whopping 30 hours when using extended battery configurations.
Often at the heart of what causes a device’s battery to drain is the fact that even when it’s not in use, it’s still connected to some sort of network. Your phone may be in standby mode, but it’ll still ring if someone calls you and it’ll still ding if someone sends you an e-mail. That constant awareness plays a large part in draining your battery.
However, a team from the University of Michigan has developed a new method for keeping wirelessly-enabled devices constantly connected while in a very low-power state—so much so that it “could extend battery life by as much as 54 percent for users on the busiest networks.”
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