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Taming the Liion King

Batteries remain the top pain point of phone owners, but some relief is   coming
By Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore, June 20 2016: Some one has calculated that  mobile phone capability seems to mimic Moore's Law.  Dr Gordon Moore had predicted, 50 years ago,   that the performance of a semiconductor chip doubles every 18 months. So it seems,  does the power under the hood of your hand phone, with today's  octa-core processor,   an eight-fold improvement  in 5 years.  But there is one laggard inside your phone. It is the battery that fuels your phone -- and a pretty lousy job it has been doing -- till now.
Remember the simpler times when your phone  did just  calls and text messages? Once charged the device was good to go for ne week. These days the battery in  a 5 or 6 inch handset  with fairly typical  multimedia usage won't last  the working day.  And consider  the technology: it has always been Lithium Ion for as long as we remember: very similar to the Leclanche  cell we studied in school -- but with a compound of Lithium as the positive electrode,  carbon or graphite as the negative pole and a salt of Lithium as the  semi fluid in between, to drive the electric current.
There's plenty of talk of new and  alternative materials -- but  mostly they  remain just that:  talk.  IBM made headlines  last year suggesting  one could replace the heavy carbon rod with air, except that  the normal air we breathe is just not pure enough.   At Loughborough University, they are working on fuel cells using hydrogen,  which theoretically should power a phone for a week. Three years ago  Eesha Khare,  an Indian-origin student  in the US   took a top prized at  the Intel Science Fair with her invention,  a Super Capacitor, that could charge an existing phone battery in 30 seconds. She is now a student at Harvard and  no one knows if she was able to commercially market her brainchild.
With no radical new battery technology in sight, the best the industry can offer us  is one of two options:  bigger batteries or a faster way to charge..   In other words,  feed  and fatten the Liion  -- or twist his tail to wake him up faster.
These days the  bigger battery brigade  has gone way beyond the typical 2000 - 3000 mAh of a year ago: 
By month end Xiaomi will be launching the Mi Max  with a jumbo  4850 mAh battery that promises to keep you going for 2 days between recharges, not bad considering this 6.5 device is more phablet than phone.
The Gionee M5 Plus sports a 5020 mAh battery and claims 47 hours of talk time and 12 hours of video playback. The Asus Zenfone Max which  we reviewed on this page,  has  a 5000 mAh battery  and power saving circuitry   that  controls  processor performance  as well as screen brightness to assure at least 2 days on a charge.
Another school of thought believes it is better to  accelerate the recharge cycle than beefing up the battery size ( which will inevitably make the phone bulkier).   Phones which run on Qualcomm's  Snapdragon processor can deploy that company's  Quick Charge technology,  now into version 3.0,  which promises to charge the phone 3 times faster than with a normal charger. 
The recently launched One Plus 3 phone offers its own patented  Dash Charge technology  with its 3000mAh  and claims to offer one day's normal usage with 30 minutes of charging.  
And at this year's Mobile World Congress, Oppo  unveiled  what it called Super VOOC Flash Charge, which charges a 2500mAh battery in 15 minutes.The Le Max 2  which is reviewed  in our Product Pulse  section,  has a 3100mAh battery backed by proprietary technology for a very short charge cycle.
We   may   greet   these  stop gap solutions --  beefed-up on board batteries or reduced  charge cycles --   with muted  applause.  We will reserve a full throated 'three cheers'   till batteries become as clever at their job,  as the phone itself.