Mobile users’ habits are restricted by their battery life

As Mobile World Congress 2014 draws to a close, 1700 exhibitors have been busy unveiling their latest innovations in technology and mobile services.

It’s incredible what you can achieve using today’s smartphones with social networking, mobile banking, sales and marketing, travel and retail applications, and what’s in store with growing development in mobile payments and health. These services are built on the connectivity and computing power and graphics of today’s feature packed smartphones and tablets.  However, current battery technology has failed to keep pace with the power demands of faster 3G and 4G connectivity, larger screens and faster processors; this is restricting how people use their devices.

Intelligent Energy commissioned a study of mobile users in the UK, India, South Korea and South Africa. It found that 32% users entered their phone’s “red zone” for low battery charge every day, with 22% running out of battery at least once per day. 65% respondents also said their phone use would change when their battery was running low, prioritising how they used their phone.

How often do you completely run out of power on your mobile phone?

Users are clearly frustrated that having adapted to the portability and freedom offered by mobile services and smart devices, power limitations are now dictating how we live our lives. In a separate response 83.5% South African users said they would be willing to pay to charge their phone once it has gone flat.

This “mobile use rationing” isn’t just frustrating for the user. It’s bad for business.  Studies have shown that increasing the availability of power to charge mobile handsets increases the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) for mobile network operators. Battery fail is a global issue that many readers will be able to relate to, but it is a problem compounded in regions where access to a reliable electricity grid is limited.  For example users in Kenya have pay as you go access to solar powered mobile charging equipment. Despite its merits, solar power has its limitations, most notably prolonged sunshine and an energy storage mechanism (such as a battery) to store energy and time-shift its release for when it is needed.

There has also been a proliferation in low cost external batteries in recent years, which provide portable energy wherever it is needed. However, these still require a power supply such as grid electricity to recharge the battery – and for the user to diligently recharge both the handset and the external battery pack. External battery packs can also leak stored charge over time if not replenished.

Upp personal energy device

Upp personal energy device

Intelligent Energy has taken a different approach, applying hydrogen fuel cell technology to address the needs of portable energy with the Upp fuel cell personal energy device. The different technology eliminates a number of these drawbacks, because it does not need any grid electricity. Instead, it works by releasing hydrogen from a cartridge containing a metal compound fuel to produce electricity. Each full fuel cartridge contains 25Wh stored energy, which is enough to charge a smartphone up to 5 times.

Suitable for use with a broad variety of Apple iOS and Android devices, the Upp can supply up to 5W, which is enough power to extend mobile usage or provide a full charge as fast as a mains socket. It charges via USB and intelligently charges USB 2 devices to deliver the correct charge and protect device batteries.

Intelligent Energy conducted field trials with a network operator to analyse the charging habits of African users, and the impact of introducing portable Upp energy. We wanted to know how people would behave if the limitations of battery life were removed, and what effect this would have on their network use. Over the course of a month the study found that close to 80% made more calls, with almost three-quarters of users making longer calls and nearly 70% using more data to take advantage of the longer talk time and freedom from impending battery failure. Network usage increased significantly, with calls rising by more than 30% with an increase in average call duration of almost 30% and a nearly 40% uplift in data usage by users.

Network usage increased significantly, with calls rising by more than 30% with an increase in average call duration of almost 30% and a nearly 40% uplift in data usage by users.

Daily trends showed users charging throughout the day with peaks in the morning, lunchtime and early evening. Whilst small in scale, these trials show how users take advantage of improved device availability as the battery life constraints are removed and the opportunity for network operators to increase the utilisation of their network.  These advantages also translate to business benefits for employers and service providers such as mobile payment providers and social networks.

The mobile power problem for many people is yet to be overcome, with many people experimenting with a range of solutions until they find something that works for them. For some this will mean carrying multiple handsets, for others external batteries and power cases could be the answer.  We believe the Upp personal energy device provides a distinct set of features to keep people connected all day long wherever they go.  With 508 operators currently investing in high-speed LTE in 144 countries and emerging market adoption of smartphones booming, Upp offers convenient instant power for the frustrated mobile user and a solution to the unreliable grid in emerging markets.

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