Android batteries

In the news business, it's what we call a "no shit" headline.

  • Samsung aims for better smartphone battery life in 2012
  • Samsung promises better battery life in 2012
  • Samsung aiming for extended battery life in 2012
  • Samsung pledges a full day of life on single charge for 2012
  • Samsung aims for all-day smartphone batteries in 2012
  • Samsung looks to beef up batteries and tweak radios in 2012 for extended life
  • Samsung joins the fight against short battery life, promises 2012 phone will be all-day strong for most users
  • Samsung promises full day of battery life for 2012 smartphones
  • Samsung commits to increasing smartphone battery life in 2012, hopes for all-day use

Every one of those headlines comes today from rereporting a CNET story  -- a story from Jan. 12 at that -- with a single direct quote from Samsung VP of product innovation, Kevin Packingham. (Note to self: Maybe pare down your Google Reader feeds a tad. Things are looking a wee bit similar.) Packingham said "When you wake up to when you go to bed, we don't want you feeling anxiety about your battery life." The transition to the quote says Samsung's goal for smartphones coming out this year is all-day use under average to moderately heavy use. It's a great line. And it's hardly new. And I still have no idea what average to moderately heavy use is. It's different for all of us.

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From the beginning of smartphone time, manufacturers have sought better battery life. Carriers have sought better battery life. Customers have sought better battery life. Hell, from the first moment humans harnessed fire and started carrying it around with torches (early experiments with fire in a cup ended pretty horribly), we've wanted more bang for our buck. So what, exactly, in that one line quote from Samsung has changed in the 17 days since 2011?

We suppose it could be argued that nobody cared about battery life last year. Just look at the initial crop of 4G LTE phones for that statement to be relatively true. Except it's not true. Not in the least. We're not engineers (as anyone who managed to pass high-school algebra will tell you). But we're willing to bet that power consumption is among the top three factors that go into smartphone design. And while battery life certainly was traded for data speeds (more accurately, radio power consumption, we reckon) of the early 4G LTE devices, to suggest that the likes of Samsung, Motorola, LG and HTC didn't care about battery life for the entire year and will just now pay attention to it is ridiculous. Besides, think back to all of the updates your phone's gotten. How many of them included lines about "Improved battery life" in the changelog?

That's not to say that some sort of paradigm shift in mobile battery technology isn't sorely needed. It's great that manufacturers are cramming more cells into smaller spaces -- like what Motorola's doing with the Droid RAZR MAXX, and what we presume we'll see the other manufacturers do as well. But that's just moving the wall a little farther away, not finding away up and over it, which is what really needs to be done. Some of that will be done on the software side, with improvements to the operating systems and well-coded applications. But most of the innovation will be done on the hardware side. If Intel can do what it's promising with its Atom processor in phones, we might finally see some movement. Dual- and quad-core processors are steps in the right direction. But what we really need is some sort of Mr. Fusion for smartphones. Something to really change the way we power our phones.  

Anyhoo, yes. Samsung's working on better battery life in 2012. So is Motorola. So is HTC. So is LG. So is Lenovo. So is ASUS. So is Toshiba. So is NVIDIA. So is Qualcomm. So is Intel. Everybody is working on better battery life, every day of the week. Right now we just have to be content with baby steps.