Battery life is the number one requested “feature” for the next iPhone. We all want all day battery life for our mobile devices, right? Companies are making phones, tablets, and laptops with the goal of battery life in mind but there is one area they are ignoring: the charging of these devices. It may seem odd for the company you bought your device from care about how you charge it but they are the ones who deal with the complaints of poor battery life. If a users bad charging habits cause the battery to degrade so the charge doesn’t last all day they look to a competitor. Bad charging habits like: leaving devices plugged in all night, laptops continuously connected to a power chord, and leaving the chargers plugged into the outlet after the devices have been unplugged. These are all very normal habits that people have fell into by way of convenience and I think it is wrong to try and get people to change, it just won’t happen. So how could Apple/Google or another device manufacturer stop the damage these bad habits cause? Smart chargers that connect to intelligently charge your devices.
What Should Smart Chargers Do
- Shut off when your device is fully charged. (Or to your preferred level of charge.)
- Have scheduled charge times so you can plug in your phone before going to sleep but not start charging until a couple hours before your alarm. (Or in case of emergencies charge to a specfic point and then top it up in the morning.)
- Shut off the flow of power completely when no device is plugged in to stop “vampire drain”. (It draws a minuscule amount of power but multiplied by the billions of devices it wastes a lot of power.)
- Bypass the battery when fully charged. This way you could leave your devices plugged in as much you wanted. No wasted battery life and fully functional devices.
All of this would have to be customizable of course, because everyone's needs are different. They don’t need to be front and centre but they should be accessible.
Why This Would Help Your Battery Life
Batteries have a finite amount of charge cycles in them before they start to degrade and reduce battery life. If you are over charging your device it can cause the battery to degrade faster. If your device is only charged exactly as much as needed it will maintain battery life longer in both the short and long term. It will last longer day to day and it will go longer before the battery won’t hold a charge.
I think the biggest chance for a smart charger to succeed on a global scale is with Apple. They are both environmental and care about the minute details of a customers experience. I don’t think this is something Apple could really market as a reason to use their products but it could be an invisible shift that customers don’t really pay much attention to. From a customer standpoint, no one want's to think about having to charge their phone. They plug it in when they go to bed and want it to last the entire next day. Unfortunately all day battery life isn't something everyone can expect from their phones these days. This problem could be partially solved by Apple introducing smart charging. You plug your phone in when you go to sleep but it doesn't start charging until a couple hours before your alarm goes off. The charger is linked to your alarm, so your phone will be ready when you get up. Why is this important? Your phones batteries are not meant to be kept at 100% they want to be cycled between 20% or 40% and 80%. Unfortunately this kind of charging isn't always convenient, and who wants to think about battery health?
Benefits of Smart Chargers:
- Better battery health
- Less wasted energy
- Longer lasting batteries
- Longer daily battery life
How Apple Could Implement Smart Chargers
People aren't going to care about battery health so it as to be dead simple to set up.
- The charger that comes with your iPhone, iPad, or Macbook is a smart charger. There are smart charging settings in your settings app. You set a time you want your phone charged at and it has it charged and waiting for that time.
- It has to be very simple to set up. Most people don't know, or just don't want to be bothered thinking about battery health so for the most part this would have to be automated after an initial set up.
- A popup when you plug in your phone asks "Charge Now" or "Charge Later" and with a push of the button your phone can be charging or ready to charge when you already told it to. (If nothing is selected it would default to “Charge Now”.)
Smart chargers are good for the environment, our devices, and us. If Apple came out with smart chargers they could have an incredibly huge impact on the world. Less batteries in landfills and less power used for the environment.
Steps You Could Take Right Now
If you want to sacrifice convenience for battery health there are a few things you can do right now:
- Don’t charge your phone over night. A phone battery is fully charged after a couple hours so it overcharges the rest of the night. (iPads or laptops have a larger battery so depending on how long you sleep they could be OK to charge overnight.)
- Unplug your devices when they are fully charged in the day.
- Don’t keep your laptop plugged in all the time. (If it’s easy to remove the battery it may be smart to do so if you don’t plan on taking it anywhere.)
- Monitor your charge and cycle it from 80% to 20% and then charge back up to 80%. Here is why you want to do that.
- Unplug your charger when it is not in use. Super inconvenient but wasted power isn’t good for anyone, especially the Earth.
- Keep your device as cool as possible. Batteries don't like heat.
Bonus: Thinking Outside the Box
What if you could tell Siri to start charging your Macbook or iPad from anywhere. Imagine this scenario, you are at school or work and you just found out you have to meet a classmate, or coworker, to work with them. You activate Siri and say "Charge my Macbook to 80% for 8:00" Your laptop will then know that it is needed at that time and will be ready for you.