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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

How Battery Technology for Mobile Devices will Evolve

ABI Research forecasts that the installed base of mobile devices -- smartphones, smart wearables, media tablets, and notebook PCs -- will reach 8 billion by 2019, providing a huge installed base for rechargeable batteries and charging solutions.

Mobile device hardware, software, and usage have developed at an incredible rate in recent years, from network speeds, to screen resolution and size, to processing power. End user’s reliance on their smartphones also grows and grows, with mobile data usage experiencing exponential growth.

One crucial part of the overall solution, battery life and charging technology, has been a laggard to date. Leaders in the mobile device sector now believe that this poor performance is unacceptable.

Short battery life remains the biggest irritation to smartphone users and is a clear opportunity for handset vendors and mobile network service providers to improve the user experience by adopting new, longer-lasting battery technologies.

"Additionally, the growth in size-constrained wearable devices makes the problem even more acute," said Nick Spencer, senior practice director at ABI Research.

Battery technology has not kept pace with hardware and usage growth, still relying on Lithium and graphite batteries and one-to-one wired charging solutions -- typically Micro-USB chargers.

This may be about to change with new battery technology in the form of silicon anode batteries already in production, from companies like Amprius and Leyden Energy, and Germanium and pure Lithium variants experiencing recent breakthroughs in their stability becoming a possibility in the near future.

The upside opportunity is enormous. ABI Research estimates that the average advanced market home has over 10 untethered devices with rechargeable batteries today.

The growth in wearables driven by the likes of Samsung and now Apple will increase this number further, along with the Internet of Things, and even electric cars.

"Battery technology is holding these innovative growth industries back and the rate of change, in what is admittedly a huge supply chain, is a concern," adds Spencer.

The battery charging market beyond wired Micro-USB chargers is also ripe for change with multi-device inductive charging mats reducing in price and integrating into public environments like cafes and airports -- a bit like Wi-Fi.

More subtle forms of charging may also be made possible like ambient radio frequency energy harvesting and even dedicated beamed radio frequency energy routed to your device.