We Need More Power
By Eric Lin, Tue Feb 17 20:15:00 GMT 2004

OK, let's put the Star Trek and James Bond jokes aside. Just as feature creep in PC software tends to eat up all the extra power new processors can provide, feature creep in mobile phones is eating up all the extra power batteries can provide.

Yesterday Nokia CTO Yrjö Neuvo painted a bleak picture for mobile hardware advancement, according to EE Times (link courtesy of Techdirt Wireless). The problem, says Neuvo, is that manufacturers are adding more features to handsets, features that obviously consume power, but battery technology has not advanced sufficiently to keep up with increased needs.

Cameras, graphics processor and larger color screens are consuming more power, in addition to all the old components. Manufacturers are in a complicated balancing act, trying to juggle features that users and operators want with battery life and handset size. New chips can combine memory and multiple processing tasks, reducing the space and power requirements, but radios are not getting much smaller or less power hungry. In fact, Neuvo states that as new handsets add multiple wireless standards, those chips will multiply, consuming more power.

However, Neuvo's dismal forecast was almost simultaneously shattered by an announcement from Texas Instruments yesterday morning. By the end of this year, they will begin manufacturing a chip that combines all RF needs on a single chip with significantly reduced size and power needs. Without a significant advance in power technologies (batteries, fuel cells or otherwise), reducing consumption is the only solution to this problem since it's unlikely consumers or operators would be willing to buy phones with less features than current models.