Microsoft is working on phones with a full week of battery life

Smartphones are crammed full of incredible technology, with some of the devices on sale now boasting features such as octa-core processors, Quad HD displays, and amazing cameras. But one component of smartphone technology - the one that powers each and every device - seems to have hardly advanced at all over the years: the battery.

Users have come to expect the need to recharge their smartphones every day, and perhaps even more frequently for those who use their devices more intensely than others - but is this as good as it gets? Microsoft thinks not, and its researchers are aiming to develop the means to ensure that smartphones can routinely enjoy a week's worth of battery life.

Ranveer Chandra (above), senior researcher for mobility and networking at Microsoft Research, says that the problem comes down to the fact that the density at which batteries are able to store energy has only doubled over the last fifteen years, whereas the pace of development in other components has been far greater. But what is the solution?

Chandra told the MIT Technology Review's Digital Summit this week: "You can't just wait for the best battery technology to come along. We can make a lot of progress because systems today don't use battery intelligently." With this in mind, Microsoft has focused its research on exploring ways not to revolutionize the battery itself, but to make the power consumption of a device more efficient using existing battery technologies. 

One option currently being developed is to create devices that replace a full sized Li-Ion battery with two smaller ones. The idea is that one of them would be optimized for high power usage tasks, such as gaming, while the other would be tuned to release a much smaller current, for when the phone is on standby in a pocket, or performing only the least power-hungry of operations.

Chandra explained that devices on sale today are optimized for an 'average' of these two extremes, which makes them inefficient at releasing the exact amount of power needed on demand. By adopting this twin-battery approach, his team has built prototypes that could ultimately lead to improvements of up to 50% in battery life. 

Software optimizations are also being explored, with some of the group's research efforts having already been infused into existing products, including the Wi-Fi power management in Windows 8, and the Power Monitoring tool for Windows Phone developers that helps them to built more energy-efficient apps. 

These are merely a couple of examples of what Microsoft has been working on, of course, and the company will be exploring many more options and ideas besides these. Chandra added that this research will likely prove helpful in the development of wearable devices too, which could be especially useful to Microsoft as its development efforts continue on its upcoming smartwatch

For now, these efforts remain confined to laboratories and prototypes. But if Microsoft succeeds in developing the means to extend handset battery life to the point where ordinary users can expect a full week between charges, the fruits of its research could well have a significant impact not just on its own future devices, but for the wider industry. 

Source: MIT Technology Review via BGR | upper image via Microsoft

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17 Comments

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Well the first step is to break away from Lithium-based batteries, since we've clearly hit a barrier with that technology. Sure hardware and software could absolutely be optimized, which will certainly help, but it's not going to magically bridge the gap between the ~1-2 days life we currently have to ~7 days.

It helps to have a thick and gigantic phone, but not many people want that. I'd still rather have a smaller phone that gets a day or two of life rather than a monstrosity that gets a week.

well, that is what I think all cell phone companies needs to put an effort and create a battery that get a week or month life of charge...

That will be just amazing!

i would rather manufacturers chase battery life than thinness, i love my iPhone but wouldn't mind if it was a little thicker to give me more than 1 1/2 days worth of charge. 3 Days would be a great start, a week would be excellent.

I like the idea which i think HTC (might have been samsung) where you can set the device into ultra low battery life, switching everything off apart from a key few services and making the screen black and white,

Personally i think there is also a market for an e'ink (kindle etc..) display type phone, i know a lot of people who access a lot of text only stuff like emails, sms etc.. where the sharpness of the e'ink would be a godsend, image quaility being greyscale wouldn't bother them and a battery that could last a couple of weeks. Perfect phone,

A full week of battery life with moderate usage would be a dream! Coming from dumb phones, I really despise smartphone battery life.

i_was_here said,
A full week of battery life with moderate usage would be a dream! Coming from dumb phones, I really despise smartphone battery life.

You need a Moto G then, my parents both have one and they get from Monday morning to Thursday night / Friday morning with moderate usage. That's with WiFi or 3g on all the time.

i_was_here said,
A full week of battery life with moderate usage would be a dream! Coming from dumb phones, I really despise smartphone battery life.

Haven't owned a phone yet that doesn't last very close to a full week. Yes, I use a some what kind of a dumb phone also and will take one of those over a smart phone any day of the week!

Then again, I don't live on my phone like I see so many doing now a days.

Hope it starts some kind of war on who can come out with the best battery. Seems to be one of the only areas phones have not improved much on.