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Mixture of battery tuning and firmware innovations could deliver 3 to 5 times longer battery life

While the poaching of Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) top scientists by Google Inc. (GOOG) and other rivals has made headlines in recent years, Microsoft still appears to have plenty of brainpower in the stable at its long-term R&D unit, Microsoft Research.
I. Batteries Within Batteries
Similar to Google X Labs, Microsoft Research focuses on solutions that are often highly unorthodox and seemingly years away from commercialization yet might make a major splash in key segments.  An example of a matured Microsoft Research effort was Photosynth -- Microsoft's mind-bending software that generates 3D scenes from 2D images.
Among the most intriguing projects of current Microsoft Research team members is the work of senior mobility research Ranveer Chandra.  Mr. Chandra joined Microsoft in 2005 after receiving his Ph.D in computer science from Cornell University for research focused on wireless stacks.
Today, Mr. Chandra's work is still focused on mobile devices, but on one of the mobile industry's biggest shortfalls -- battery life.  Today’s most powerful smartphones and tablets require daily recharges.  Mr. Chandra's goal is highly ambitious and specific -- to deliver smartphone technology that takes battery life under average daily use from around a day or two to a full week.

Ranveer Chandra
Microsoft Research senior scientist Ranveer Chandra wants smartphones that can go for a week without a recharge. [Image Source: Microsoft]

In other words, he wants to make smartphone battery life around 3 to 5 times greater than what is currently available.
Part of that increase could come from improved battery chemistries, but Mr. Chandra isn't holding his breath.  He points out that battery capacity has only doubled in the past 15 years.  Presenting on his research at the MIT Technology Review’s Digital Summit in San Francisco, he told the audience:

You can’t just wait for the best battery technology to come along.  We can make a lot of progress because systems today don’t use battery intelligently.

His most innovative idea is to produce a battery with two or more individual cells or segments tuned for different power consumption levels.  Today's smartphones have a single battery that supplies current at what is considered an "average" load.  In smartphone terms, typically this means an average use case when the phone is on.
Heat and electrical leakages diminish any battery from its ideal theoretical capacity.  Batteries see the lowest level of waste -- and highest level of energy efficiency -- when operating at the current they're tuned to.  The problem when it comes to smartphones is that at low power (standby), the hardware is typically drawing too little current and wastes more power, as a result.  On the flip side, when under an unusual heavy load (e.g. a pocket 3D-game) the phone may draw more than the battery's standard current, causing it to heat up and waste power.
Mr. Chandra's initial concept involves using two lithium ion batteries -- one for standby current levels; the other for current levels at higher performance.  In tests this seemingly simple change increase a smartphone's battery life by 20 to 50 percent.
While he didn't go into details, it's reasonable to extrapolate that eventually the principle could be extended to subdivisions of the active power cell into multiple current levels -- perhaps one for very low power activities (reading texts, etc.), one for medium power activities (internet browsing), and one for very graphically intensive activities (HD video, 3D gaming).  Also, as standby power is typically consumed while the phone is sitting in your pocket (poorly ventilated) and active power is typically consumed when the phone is sitting in your hand (well ventilated), the standby cell could be tuned to operate under poor ventilation conditions.
II. Smarter Multitasking
While that technology hasn't made it to the commercial phase yet, Mr. Chandra's firmware work has started to trickle into use.  One of his projects is E-Loupe -- a piece of OS firmware that essentially does predictive multitasking.  It watches app usage in order to predict which currently unused apps aren't likely to be used for some time.  Those apps are then either paused or slowed down.  E-Loupe uses a cloud database of a plethora of Windows users in order to generate smarter predictions, even before your device learns the quirks of your particular usage patterns.
Battery prediction
Microsoft's E-Loupe uses the cloud to optimize multitasking power consumption.

Windows 8 incorporates a rudimentary version of E-Loupe into its laptop power management firmware.  It watches how much computing resources (and by proxy power), an app uses and then uses that information to control CPU frequencies (and power consumption).

It will take a lot of work to achieve the dynamite goal of a 3-5 times battery life improvement in the timeframe Mr. Chandra desires -- the next several years.  But Microsoft appears to be in striking distance of those goals, if he is able to properly mature his current mixture of hardware (battery tuning) and firmware (predictive task pausing/backgrounding, CPU clockspeed control).

If Windows Phones could run for a full week on a single charge under normal use and Microsoft held the patents to make that capability exclusive, that could be a game changer for Microsoft's smartphone ambitions.

Source: MIT Technology Review

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frist step
By mushiki on 6/12/2014 6:33:02 PM , Rating: 1
first step to do that.

1. Dont use retarded screen resolutions (1440p) like LG G3

I have a 1080p nexus 5 and i still think 720p for 5'' screen is more than enough.

RE: frist step
By Reclaimer77 on 6/13/2014 8:11:48 AM , Rating: 2
RE: frist step
By Gungel on 6/13/2014 10:51:44 AM , Rating: 4
Now imagine how much better it would be if they used a 1080p resolution with the same size battery size.

RE: frist step
By Reclaimer77 on 6/13/2014 10:54:46 AM , Rating: 2
Hell why stop there? Let's go back to 480p...

RE: frist step
By Labotomizer on 6/13/2014 11:17:40 AM , Rating: 2
Some might for better battery life. I certainly wouldn't... I think 1080p is enough for a 5" phone, 1440p would be useful at 6". But I'm sure I'll end up with a 1440p phone in a year or so since the industry will move in that direction and I won't avoid a flagship device because it's high resolution.

RE: frist step
By elleehswon on 6/14/2014 1:06:11 PM , Rating: 2
why stop there? 320x240x256 colors!!!

RE: frist step
By Jeffk464 on 6/14/2014 1:59:42 PM , Rating: 2
Na, the retina display concept. The appropriate resolution for the screen size. I personally can't tell the difference between 1080 and 720 on a 5" screen.

RE: frist step
By retrospooty on 6/14/2014 4:25:23 PM , Rating: 2
But you get that others can I hope.

RE: frist step
By Spuke on 6/13/2014 12:46:52 PM , Rating: 2
I'd rather have the best battery life in the industry AND a 1440p screen.

RE: frist step
By retrospooty on 6/13/2014 6:48:42 PM , Rating: 2
There are already other phones with the same CPU/GPU and 1080p screens. The GS5 and the One M8 for example. This beats them both, so at the very least the effect of 1440p is extremely minimal.

RE: frist step
By retrospooty on 6/13/2014 10:31:56 AM , Rating: 2
"Dont use retarded screen resolutions (1440p) like LG G3"

So... The bast battery life in the industry is your bad example?

"I have a 1080p nexus 5 and i still think 720p for 5'' screen is more than enough."

Enough for you maybe, that is fine, but please understand that if you cant see the difference from 720 to 1080 on a 5 inch screen then you have an issue with your close range vision.

RE: frist step
By Motoman on 6/13/2014 12:54:07 PM , Rating: 2
Some day I can only hope you'll stop lying about that.

You want uselessly high resolutions on tiny screens, fine - knock yourself out. But please stop your assaults on people who point out that there's not actually any benefit by telling them there's something wrong with them.

The *vast* majority of people do not care what the resolution is on a phone, and can see with their own eyes that it doesn't make any difference, and I've proven this in the real world and have described the process several times and you can do it on your own to prove it to yourself.

RE: frist step
By retrospooty on 6/13/2014 6:47:02 PM , Rating: 2
What lie? There is a difference and if you cant see it there is something wrong with your near term vision. It's not an insult... Half the country wears glasses. It's not abnormal.

If you say you don't care, about the quality difference from 720 to 1080 on a 5 inch phone, fine. I believe you. If you say you cant see a difference, there is something wrong with your near term vision period, end of story. You don't see what you cant see because your eyes are not working well at that distance.

RE: frist step
By CyranD on 6/15/2014 8:57:48 AM , Rating: 3
Taking this from a scientific approach here a approximation of what someone is capable of seeing.

There 3 factors
1. Your eyes sight
2. DPI of the screen
3. Distance from the screen

For this calculation am going to show 20/20 vision and just for comparison the theoretical max a unaided human eye can see 20/8.

20/20 = ~0.016666 arc minutes (in degrees)
20/8 = ~0.00666666 arc minutes (in degrees)

Formula for max dpi
=1/(2*Distance(in inches)*TAN((arc minutes/2))))

**make sure you do the calculation in degrees. Many calculators will assume radians. If using excel for example you have to write the formula like
=1/(2*Distance*TAN((RADIANS(arc minutes/2))))

if distance equal 6 inches you get
20/20 = 573
20/8 = 1432

6 inch cell phone DPI
1080 DPI= = (SQRT(1920^2+1080^2))/6 = 440.6

440<573 so someone with 20/20 vision at 6 inches should be capable of seeing a resolution greater then 1080.

I also showed 20/8 just to make the point that your vision have a huge impact on what the max resolution is you can see. It is very possible that when one person says they cant see the difference and another person says they can that they both telling the truth.

RE: frist step
By Jeffk464 on 6/15/2014 10:31:13 PM , Rating: 4
6" is really uncomfortable for focusing, I probably hold my phone somewhere between one to one and a half feet away.

RE: frist step
By supertrekie on 6/16/2014 11:05:30 AM , Rating: 1
All that math and you don't understand the difference between DPI and PPI?

RE: frist step
By name99 on 6/13/2014 1:41:40 PM , Rating: 2
Actually on both iOS and Android (I don't know about WinPhone) the VERY first step is to shut down Skype.
Skype is notorious as BY FAR the worst background power hog on both iOS and Android --- search the web and you'll see plenty of confirmation of this.

I don't know how long it's been bad on Android, but on iOS people have been complaining for at least two years. And it still hasn't been fixed with the iOS Skype 5 that was released yesterday.

So, yeah, Microsoft, as they say, I'll believe it when you ship this magical 3x better battery life OS and not a minute sooner.

By Motoman on 6/12/2014 6:45:23 PM , Rating: 3
Microsoft Wants One-Week Battery Life From Smartphones

And people in hell want iced tea.

I don't really give a sh1t about what the life of a cell phone battery is so long as it gets me through a day. Because I can spare the 1.5 seconds it takes me to plug it in when I go to bed.

Sadly, it seems that most phones can't get through a day. At least, not if you do anything with them other than hope no one calls you.

RE: Uh-huh
By Jeffk464 on 6/13/2014 12:26:33 AM , Rating: 2
Yup, give me real all day performance. But all day can mean unplugged navigation while playing podcasts and music collection through the car stereo.

RE: Uh-huh
By Labotomizer on 6/13/2014 11:19:25 AM , Rating: 2
If you want that then light usage would equate to a week... So you're basically asking for what MS is going for. Makes sense.

RE: Uh-huh
By FITCamaro on 6/13/2014 11:50:33 AM , Rating: 2
My Note 2 can do that. No not 12 hours of navigation + music streaming. But reasonable levels of each and last the day.

RE: Uh-huh
By bug77 on 6/13/2014 6:09:53 AM , Rating: 2
The problem I see with daily charging is that batteries increasingly become non user-replaceable and their life is still measured in hundreds of recharge cycles.

RE: Uh-huh
By Motoman on 6/13/2014 2:24:34 PM , Rating: 2
No one's holding back on battery tech...they're as good as we can reasonably make them as mass-produced products.

Not having user replaceable batteries in any device, though, is pretty moronic. Especially in a cell phone, which for far too many people can't keep active for a single day's use without needing a recharge...or battery swap.

Parallel Power Cores
By mmc4587 on 6/12/2014 10:36:02 PM , Rating: 2
Wouldn't it make more sense to just have several battery cores?

During stand-by, just use one or two cores.
During moderate tasks, use three to five cores.
During intensive tasks, use six to ten cores.

This would allow for smother current scaling,
AND could optimize power consumption by rotating active cores,
AND could mitigate efficiency drops resulting from loss of full charge (by making the number of active cores dependant upon a current draw vs capacitance relationship).

RE: Parallel Power Cores
By xti on 6/13/2014 11:58:34 AM , Rating: 2
if consumers keep conforming, then we will never get anywhere.

batteries have not progressed anywhere near to what the rest of the components of your typical phone have. We should demand more, not turn off cores and apps.

RE: Parallel Power Cores
By Motoman on 6/13/2014 2:01:35 PM , Rating: 3
The problem isn't demand for better batteries.

The problem is that physics exists...and batteries are, and have been for quite a while, as good as they're going to get.

Someone's going to have to invent something truly novel for any kind of big jump in battery performance. Not that I have any idea what that "something" might be. But batteries have been in very high demand for a very long time - really, I would say since the transistor radio. And it seems quite apparent that there's just not anything left to squeeze out.

Need something new. Until can either use portable devices with the batteries we *Can* make, or you can do without.

Use larger batteries?
By AdamAnon on 6/13/2014 1:59:19 PM , Rating: 5
Well, for starters they could try to put an end to the obsessions with "thin" and just put a larger battery in a phone.

Microsoft and Apple have an edge
By aliasfox on 6/13/2014 1:33:26 PM , Rating: 2
MS and Apple have access to all levels of the hardware and software stack - very useful for building in efficiency. Stuff that MS wants to build in, along with stuff like Apple's Metal (which allows for more efficient use of the GPU) are the future, and these benefits might be difficult for Android to replicate. Even these days, we see iPhones and Windows Phone devices perform acceptably well, even if they're using hardware that would be dog slow when running Android. Soon we'll be at a point where all hardware, cheap and expensive, is 'fast enough' to do what we want, and it'll be up to the people who manage the hardware to bring out big gains in areas we'll still notice - like battery life.

RE: Microsoft and Apple have an edge
By name99 on 6/13/2014 1:48:10 PM , Rating: 2
At least for now Apple has much more control --- remember they're designing their CPU and SOC (and soon enough their GPU, maybe as soon as the A8).

MS has to settle for whatever CPU and SOCs the industry provides, and they seem unlikely to go further down the manufacturing path.

It's not clear how much this TOTAL control matters, but given that Apple have acquired expertise in flash (Anobit, which hasn't yet made any obvious contribution to a product) and a number of basedband engineers, they seem to believe there is value in replacing a few more of the commodity parts of their systems.

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