Tech Companies Are Lying To You About Battery Life
Battery life is so key in our “mobile-first world”, be it from your laptop, to your tablet, or–for some–most importantly: your smartphone. And tech companies like Apple, Samsung, LG, etc., have done a pretty good job of getting people used to the idea that their devices are only going to last a day (if you’re lucky) and then you’re going to have to plug them in.
Now, do we really need to have our devices work all day? No. Certainly, you don’t technically need a smartphone, either. You don’t need a laptop either when a desktop would be just fine. But there are genuine advantages to having these things that make them worth it (and maybe your job now does make such things a requirement, and that’s fine). So naturally we would like these devices to work as long as possible without having to reattach to a wall (or worse).
While USB-C and other technologies along those lines are getting developed that will allow a portable power pack (battery) connect even to laptops and charge them on-the-go, and I’m certainly supportive of this sort of thing (I already use portable power packs for my phones and tablets), but the reality of why any of this is necessary or even a concern has never been brought to the fore. Why? Because it’s a scam.
The fact is, you could have a smartphone that could likely last you all week. You could have a laptop with two-day battery life. The battery technology already exists!
But there’s something most people don’t understand: Tech companies run on exceptionally thin profit margins, and have gotten to the point that they need you to buy a new device either every year or every two years. The problem that these tech companies have is that they can’t innovate at that speed to where they can actually release something world-changing (like the iPod or iPhone was) every year or two years. So they have to figure out ways to get you to buy iterations of “must-have” devices, with built-in features and technologies that they could have put in a years before (think how the original Kindle Fire didn’t have a forward-facing camera that was commonplace on other tablets at the time), or that aren’t really necessary (thus, drain the battery) and just “look good on paper”.
Of course, the reason given to people is that they have to do this because it’s too expensive at the time to implement all of these features, and it won’t allow these companies to sell you device within the $199 or $299–whatever–range. There are times where I’m sure this is true, but I think this is exceptionally rare when one does some research into the cost of these features. As an example, why does Apple not offer 32GB models of their mobile devices? Because 32GB of storage is a sweetspot of local storage in our cloud-centric world (one that Google knows about and offers its devices in because it dances perfectly with local storage and Google’s own cloud storage). If Apple offered a 32GB iPad or iPhone, you wouldn’t buy the 64GB and 128GB models, and they’d lose out on what is in reality very inexpensive (for Apple) to build “higher-end” models.
So let’s cut to the chase…why don’t your mobile devices have multi-day battery life? There are many reasons, but the main two, in my opinion, are listed below.
- Meaningless screen resolutions.
- Ridiculously “thin and light”.
Speaking of Apple, let’s touch on the first issue on our list. Unless you slap on a screen like Google’s Chromebook Pixel has, nothing beats an Apple “retina” display. Certainly, there are lots of devices and laptops that have what is technically a higher pixel count for screen resolution, but when looking at a “retina” display you quickly discover that it’s not how high the pixel count is, but what you do with those pixels. Also, there’s the point that on such small screens (even tablet screens, let alone smartphone screens), there’s little difference in function and color depth than 1080p. It’s just not there. Even on laptops it’s a market-known fact. Every new model of “ultrabook” laptop that comes out, offers a 3k/4k touchscreen display on it, but they also offer 1080p options. Is this to be able to sell a cheaper model? Sure, at times. But it’s also because on a functional level, 1080p is one of those “tech sweetspots” that we mentioned above (a la, 32GB of storage). It’s that point where the scan lines that older folks were used to, generally will completely disappear. Bottom line, going above 1080p offers little functional difference (and that fact goes beyond this argument, think TV’s as well). But what does going beyond 1080p do to your battery? It destroys it. It can–at least–cut it in half. I know, I know, you were expecting to buy that huge Nexus 6 phone because you said to yourself, “Man, that thing is huge! Can you imagine the size of the battery in that thing?” I would’ve thought that, too, admittedly. But guess what? It’s not 1080p. They went for QHD and the battery life went to shit because of it.
How about the second point on our list: “thin and light”? Let’s talk Apple again, because they’ve really led this charge. There was a time when having a really small laptop was quite the novelty, and an exciting prospect. I agree with that. In fact, I didn’t really take laptops seriously until the netbook craze (I had one of those original 9″ EeePC’s from ASUS). But ultrabooks and “MacBooks” and “MacBook Airs” are not netbooks. These are at least 11″, with 13″ becoming the real standard. These are not the “mini-laptops” that netbooks were delivering as. These are full on laptops. And as far as I can see, it is the rare person that actually carries around a laptop without a full messenger bag or backpack regularly. Also, few people are carrying around their laptops as if it were a tablet as they generally sit down and open up the clamshell and go to work. If you do often carry it around like a tablet, well, that’s what the “convertible” series of laptops is all about: They’re for you, the person that uses your laptop like a tablet, so you can actually detach it like a tablet.
What I’m getting at with all of this is that laptops being “thin and light” is a fine idea (to save your back and shoulders), but being “ultrathin and ultralight” doesn’t really make any sense. It’s just more of those iterative bullshit reasons to make you think you need a new computer or device. Consider the iPad Air. Nearly every reviewer admitted that there is NO POINT to having a device that thin, in fact, it’s detrimental to the ruggedness of the design (even the Apple fanboys admitted to this one). Also, speaking of the iPad, it proves my point, that Apple was running into the problem that no one saw any reason to upgrade from their years-old iPad 2. The devices have been too iterative, and it was painfully obvious. So to the point: if the iPad Air has better battery life than the iPad 2, why not use the space that the iPad 2 provides (and that no one has a problem with) to put in an even more massive battery?
The answer, in my opinion, is that greater battery life and battery developments will become the next cycle in iterative improvements. If you heard about an iPad or an ultrabook getting released that has a battery that could go for days on end, you’d line around the block for it. The battery that can achieve that doesn’t exist yet, but it’s coming, and when it does, Apple and the rest of these tech companies are going to be ready to sell you some new devices with them. But if they sold you devices right now that could last for days, simply because they didn’t build it “ultrathin and ultralight” and didn’t put in a near-useless high resolution screen…well…you wouldn’t be impressed by the next iteration of battery ability, and you may not even buy a new device for five, six, maybe even seven years (especially if you’re not a PC gamer), causing these companies to go bankrupt!
Tech companies have gone through this cycle before. Remember how small feature phones were getting pre-iPhone? The iPhone “changed the world” before that whole plan could come to full-circle fruition with feature phones, but it was in place. And do people have a problem with devices getting significantly larger as compared to thinner and lighter? The Galaxy Note-series and the iPhone 6 Plus would say people don’t mind large devices one bit, and there are even third-party companies selling cases and extended batteries to answer this desire for your devices (doing very well in sales figures, at that). Of course, a lot of those options are disappearing as more and more devices have non-removable batteries, including laptops (what an irony that the more expensive options of the Apple Watch have a removable battery? Talk about a quiet admission that built-in, lame batteries are meant to keep you buying a new device every couple of years).
You are being scammed when it comes to battery life. I’ll ask you a simple question: would you accept another half-inch of size on your phone, tablet, or laptop if the battery could last you for days–if not longer? I’m pretty sure you’d answer, “yes”. But that doesn’t fit into the plans tech companies have for your wallet.