Mobile Device Proliferation to Power Advanced Battery Market

Battery technology has not kept pace with hardware and usage growth, still relying on lithium and graphite batteries and one-to-one wired charging.

mobile devices and batteries

The installed base of mobile devices, including smartphones, basic mobile phones, wearables, tablets and notebooks, will reach 8 billion by 2019, according to ABI Research, and this has the potential to drive a huge market for rechargeable batteries and charging solutions.

ABI Research estimates that the average advanced market home has more than 10 untethered devices with rechargeable batteries today, and it projected the growth in wearables driven by the likes of Samsung and now Apple to increase this number further, along with the Internet of things (IoT) and even electric cars.

"Some of the more influential operators stipulate certain battery life standards, and it remains the consumer's biggest irritation," Nick Spencer, senior practice director of mobile devices and wearables at ABI Research, told eWEEK. "As usage continues to grow and screen resolution and size does too, battery life is under pressure."

Battery technology so far has not kept pace with hardware and usage growth, still relying on lithium and graphite batteries and one-to-one wired charging solutions (typically micro-USB chargers).

"This may be about to change with new battery technology in the form of silicon anode batteries already in production, from companies like Amprius and Leyden Energy," he said. "Germanium and pure lithium variants experienced recent breakthroughs in their stability, becoming a possibility in the near future."

In addition, Spencer noted public solar charging stations are growing, and charging mats will be increasingly integrated into furniture in the home and in public.

Kinetic and ambient charging, such as harvesting radio frequency (RF), may be used but will likely only extend battery life, slowing the draining rather than recharging, Spencer explained.

The ABI report claimed the battery charging market beyond wired micro-USB chargers is also ripe for change with multidevice inductive charging mats reducing in price and being integrated into public environments such as cafes and airports, a bit like WiFi already is.

More subtle forms of charging may also be made possible, such as ambient radio frequency energy harvesting and even dedicated beamed radio frequency energy routed to the device.

As for more advanced battery technology, Spencer said silicon batteries are already present in devices, and they are also improving and enabling larger capacity batteries—around 20 percent more for the same volume size battery.

"The other options pure lithium and Germanium are further off, say three years plus, for a number of reasons," he said. "The technology still needs work and industrialization—can it be made cheaply? This is a huge industry, and the supply chain will take time to shift. Batteries are regulated and need to meet safety standards across the world."

Spencer said he sees the market for portable devices that serve as quick rechargers expanding, noting there is steady growth there, one reason being device proliferation—users increasingly will carry more than one device, smartphone, tablet and wearable.

"One word of warning though: The faster the charge, the faster the drain too," he said.