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How Tech Behind The Batteries Powering Mobile Phones Has Evolved

The batteries on smartphones have also been refined to ensure they meet the user’s requirements and expectations. (PHOTO: Tyler Lastovich/Unsplash)

The batteries on smartphones have also been refined to ensure they meet the user’s requirements and expectations. (PHOTO: Tyler Lastovich/Unsplash)

Everywhere you turn nowadays, you will find someone on their cell phone. These mobile devices have evolved from bulky and seldom-used gadgets into essential communication tools that we cannot go without. Mobile phones are an efficient gateway to today’s digitally-aware generation that does much of its things online. Thanks to the advanced tech behind their effectiveness, we can use them for hours without worrying about dying batteries.

Early Cellular phone Batteries Lasted a Short Period

The modern cell phone credits its existence to the traditional two-way radios used in the 1940s by police and taxis. The first cell phone was used by Swedish Police Department in 1946, working based on the same radio transmission principles. The gadget could handle six calls before draining the battery. The phones run on car batteries since they were installed in the vehicles, instead of the independent batteries we have come to know. That means the first mobile phones required large amounts of power.

Current cellular phones have smaller batteries, which might have seemed a farfetched invention back in the 1940s. Furthermore, the phones were large and bulky: for instance, the Erikson cell phone in the 1950s weights nearly 80 pounds. The size changed, and manufacturers came up with better ideas for making their communication devices smaller. By the 1960s, cell phones were working in single cell phone calling areas. The phones did not work once the user was out of the assigned calling area. The tech is credited to a Bell Labs engineer.

The first mobile phone that comes close to what we use today was introduced in the market in 1973 and could be used independently and in multiple calling zones. However, the devices were far from the tiny, sleek, and power-efficient smartphones we currently use. Furthermore, they would run for roughly 30 minutes before their batteries ran out, and these short-lived power reserves took 10 hours to recharge fully. Compare that charging rate to what you have when using the different types of charging ports – a charging socket in your car, the electric socket in your home, or via a USB charging cable connected to your computer.

Cell Phones Advanced Over Time

As from the 1980s, cellular phones started getting more practical and popular, but they were somewhat of a mainstay in cars because they needed significant battery power. Some models could be used outside the vehicles and were known as “car phones.” Other models were built into bespoke briefcases that housed large batteries to power the devices.

However, as technology advances, these formerly bulky and energy-inefficient potable communication gadgets were getting smaller by the 1990s. Conversely, the necessary networks needed also improved to facilitate better communication. Systems like TDMA, CDMA, GSM, and even digital phone networks came up in Europe and the United States by 1991.

The tech advancements towards making these devices smaller and more efficient have resulted in smaller mobile phones with smaller batters. People were carrying wireless communication gadgets that weighed between 100gm to 200gm, compared to their predecessors that weights 20 to 80 pounds, with some that had briefcase-sized carrier compartments for their batteries.

Smartphones Revolutionized the Modern Mobile Phone

Jump to 2016, where smartphones are predominant, and it seems like what we have today is a technology that is centuries ahead of the primitive options used back in the 1950s. The smartphone can be considered something out of a sci-fi movie. People use them to send texts, make calls, video chat, surf the web, take pictures, study, make hotel or dinner reservations, and even do office work.

The batteries on these devices have also been refined to ensure they meet the user’s requirements and expectations. The batteries are a significant change from the car battery, and the tech behind their creation keeps evolving. Currently, we have several types of mobile phone batteries:

Nickel-Cadmium (NiCD) batteries were standard back in the 1980s and ‘90s. However, they were large and bulky, making the cell phone heavy. Furthermore, NiCD batteries would develop a “memory effect,” which would occur after recharging them severally over their use, making them not hold a charge. Therefore, cellular phone users would end up buying replacements, which was a costly cycle. NiCD batteries were also known for getting hot when charged, thus posing a risk. They consisted of a toxic compound called Cadmium which was a problem to dispose of once the NiCD battery died.

The risks associated with the use of NiCD batteries contributed to the need for better power reserve alternatives, which led to the creation of the Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries. The NiMH battery stepped into the scene in the late 1990s and was a revolutionary change because it did not have any toxic compounds. The battery also has fewer memory effect problems. Furthermore, the NiMH battery was thinner and lighter than the NiCD and took a shorter period to recharge. The nickel-metal hydride battery also held a charge for longer, allowing users to utilize their cell phones for longer before running out of power.

Next came the lithium-ion battery, which is still used to date. The lithium-ion battery is thinner, lighter, and more energy-efficient than its first two predecessors. It takes a shorter time to fully charge and lasts longer. Lithium batteries can be made into different shapes and sizes, meaning the Lithium-ion battery will fit different mobile phone styles. That is why it is a common choice for many cell phone manufacturing companies. Lithium-ion batteries do not have memory effect issues; thus, you can recharge them severally, and they will not underperform. They also are environmentally sustainable but are slightly costlier than their predecessors.

Lithium-Poly Ion battery is the current gamechanger. It is super light with no memory effect that can impact their recharging, so they have 40% more power than the nickel-metal hydride batteries. The tech behind the lithium-poly ion battery is still relatively new; hence, these batteries are expensive and somewhat rare. Nevertheless, the tech for the Li-Poly battery has evolved from what was used seven decades ago, which is a significant milestone for the mobile phone industry.

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