Cell phone batteries, one of life’s pains, are getting better, but…
You’ve just purchased your new 4G LTE smartphone, charged the battery, turned it on, launched the music player, taken a few photos, surfed the web and checked out Google maps.
You’re happy as a clam. To your dismay, the cellular battery meter on the phone starts draining faster than a heavily-loaded SUV.
What happened? The cellular battery on your old phone lasted a lot longer than you new one. Of course, you probably didn’t have a high res camera, megabytes of MP3 audio files and a 3G data connection with your carrier. You used your phone mostly for talking and texting–not staying online 24/7 for tweets and Facebook wall scrawl.
Face it, batteries haven’t kept pace with mobile smartphones that suck bandwidth. In the past, you used a portable Garmin, Magellan or Nuvi for GPS tracking. To take photos, you grabbed your 8 megapixel digital camera. If you’re into music, out popped your iPod or MP3 player.
Now, your mobile phone has most of those features. Your smartphone is like a Swiss jackknife–one wireless device with lots of functions, which takes its toll on battery life.
Cell Phone Batteries Six Feet Under
The battery drain problem reminds me of a 2005 episode from “Alias,” a popular C.I.A TV series.
- Sydney Bristow, Alias Character
Sydney Bristow, a lady who does cartwheels for the CIA, gets locked in a coffin and buried in a grave six feet deep with nothing except a cell phone and a dead guy next to her.
As the oxygen levels drop, Sydney’s cell phone battery meter drops to minus one.
Meanwhile, Marshall, her C.I.A. tech geek, madly drives around Havana, Cuba in a taxi, trying to triangulate her location.
While Marshall searches for her in the graveyard, Sydney’s last gasps are transmitted by her cell to Langley before her cell phone battery dies.
Just as Sydney’s cell goes to mobile Heaven, Marshall finally arrives at the cemetery. Breathless, Marshall gets help from C.I.A. headquarters’ folks who manage to locate a satellite showing poor Sydney’s thermal emissions. (She’s still warm; her cell’s battery quite cold.)
Marshall, not in the best shape of his life, sees a shovel, digs poor Sydney out from six feet under and performs CPR (on Sydney–not her cell phone). She finally regains consciousness. No so with her dead, drained cell phone battery.
Don’t ask me how a cell phone signal is traceable under six feet of dirt inside a coffin. The point of the story is familiar to everyone whose mobile phone battery died in the middle of an important phone call, reading email, texting or surfing the Web.
Bottom line: Mobile phone batteries, especially those used in 3G smartphones, haven’t kept up with the demands of today’s mobile computing needs.
In my podcast interview with Scott Goodrich of Cellular Systems, Inc., he pointed out that 80% of all cell phone use occurs inside buildings. That includes both voice and data use. Employees are more “mobile” inside their company’s buildings than outdoors, which changes the meaning of “mobility.”
CSI supplies cell phone repeaters and other gear to boost cellular signal levels inside buildings, reducing the drain on your cell phone’s battery.
Cell Phone Advice for your Dying Smartphone
CNET Australia offers the following advice for iPhone users, although the suggestions are equally helpful for other smartphone users who want their cell phone batteries to last longer between charges.
- Turn off 3G and Wi-Fi. Depending on your signal strength, a 3G-enabled phone, like other phones, will increase its RF output to compensate for lower signal strength. Likewise, switching to Wi-Fi drains your battery quickly as it downloads data.
- Turn off Bluetooth. Most phones with Bluetooth are useful in “hands-free” mode when driving. Your phone may also support other bluetooth wireless features such as file exchange. But this wireless feature drains your battery quickly. Turning it off increases battery life.
- Lower Your Screen’s Brightness. Similar to your laptop or netbook, illuminating mobile phone screens takes more battery power than other features. Reducing brightness significantly increases battery life.
- Use simpler wallpaper for your screen’s background, lower your phone’s volume and turn off vibrate mode. By now, you’re probably crying and wondering why you bought that beautiful smartphone with all its bells-and-whistles. But all is not lost. Balance your mobile phone’s settings between usefulness, attractiveness and battery life. Also keep in mind that you can ignore some of these suggestions to save battery life if re-charging the battery is easily done at work, school, home or in the car.
You may never get buried alive with a dead cell phone, but until cell phone batteries improve, taking prudent steps to increase battery life is a good idea.