Apple could even, thanks to the new technology, make more radical changes to the overall design of the iPhone, because its engineers would no longer to base their work on a fixed battery shape. Although the smartphone is such a mature market now that it would take a brave manufacturer to change its essential form - a little like a mad microwave designer inventing one that's spherical.
The capacity and efficiency of batteries is sure to increase over the next few years, and may do so dramatically if lithium-oxygen cells (also known as lithium-air) become a reality. As a Nature study (you'll need to pay to read the full article) explains, Li-O2 batteries offer theoretically far higher lifetimes than the lithium-ion equivalents currently favoured in mobile devices - maybe as much as five times as much, although technological issues remain.
But we're still thinking in terms of conventional battery principles: batteries than need to be charged up from a mains supply, and then run down, and then need to be charged up again.
A different approach is offered by technologies such as motion charging, a principle that has been used in numerous watches going back many years and was reportedlyconsidered by Apple when putting together the first Apple Watch. It uses kinetic energy from your own movements to charge up a battery cell - the traditional model would be for a wristwatch to harness the power of your arm swinging back and forth throughout the day, but similar methods have been used by wearable phone chargers that generate sufficient power in this way to give an extra hour of life to the average phone from a mere, er, 5,000 steps.
Okay, so the tech needs improvement to achieve mass-market acceptance,and it would be better still if technology of this kind could be integrated into the body of the phone itself (it's also vital for it to be able to collect a worthwhile amount of power from the smaller-scale movements experienced by a phone in a pocket or handbag rather than on the end of an arm). But it's an appealingly sustainable way of collecting some of that energy you're otherwise wasting on things like 'moving from one place to another' and 'getting fit'.
A similar technology category that seems likely in the foreseeable future to supplement rather than supplant traditional battery-charging methods is solar power. Sunpartner Technologies has developed a lightweight skin/case that wraps around a mobile device and collects energy from light that falls on it. This is designed to work with both indoor and natural light, but is obviously better with the latter; in the right circumstances the tech could add some 10 to 15 percent to battery life.
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