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Power & Portability

by
Engagement Director

The invisible restraint of the apparent newfound freedom of battery-powered phones is that these devices  need charging up– we can only stray so far from a power socket for so long.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a millennial must be in want of a smartphone – fortune or not. I got my first smartphone in 2014, when I left university; a late bloomer, but I have really embraced them since. I even had Snapchat for a bit. Having spent much of my adolescence accompanied by a Nokia 3410, the one thing I couldn’t abide with smartphones was the battery life. In the past, I had been on holiday for a week without a charger and still come back with plenty of juice for a few phone calls or a game of Snake. For (and presumably, because of) all their new bells and whistles, smartphones seemed thirstier than Maestro Adamo [that’s enough Dante. Ed.], and battery charge became something of which I was constantly aware.

One factor in smartphones’ draining of battery life is the strange social challenge they bring. Battery-powered devices are portable (i.e. not “plugged in”) and so in theory they enable increased mobility: you are no longer reliant upon a landline, or a computer plugged into the wall, for example. That said, the invisible restraint of this apparent newfound freedom is that these devices (on which we increasingly rely) need charging up– we can only stray so far from a power socket for so long. My old Marketing professor was explaining Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to our class, and noted that today there are actually two other needs which are more important than physiological needs (e.g. food and water): wi-fi and wall socket.

Thus, paradoxically the more our strings (or rather, wires) are cut, the less free we are. How do we resolve this? Looking at the twin challenges of reliance on wi-fi & energy, the former can be solved relatively easily – mobile phone contracts with unlimited data are not uncommon, and networks have increasing coverage: around 1.7bn people will have access to a 5G network by 2025. However, until batteries get back to the good old days of Nokia and I can be free of the implicit wires binding invisibly to power sources, I fear I will never be truly liberated. The solution is battery technology improvements, which I will describe in my next blog.