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How adaptive charging keeps your battery strong after years of use

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Have you ever noticed how your phone's battery life gets worse the older it gets? After a year, a phone that lasted until midnight could be struggling to reach the end of the workday. There's a reason for that -- smartphone batteries degrade over time, particularly when they're charged quickly and often. Sony reckon they've got the answer, though -- 'adaptive charging', a new technology that could double your battery's working life. Let's investigate!

 

The battery health problem

 

As smartphones have become more power hungry and removable batteries have fallen out of fashion, we've seen a renaissance of new charging methods and technologies. Aside from larger capacity batteries, charging speeds have also been a major focus for smartphone and tablet makers; a smartphone that lasts one day is acceptable for consumers if they can top up a significant percentage in just half an hour or so.

 

 

However, this comes at a cost: long-term battery health, which has lead to smartphones that quickly lose their original capacity. Sony is trying to change that trend on their 2016 phones with a new 'adaptive charging' technology, which seeks to maintain fast charging times while avoiding long-term damage to battery health.

 

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QNOVO's charging improvements

 

Sony's adaptive charging efforts come via cooperation with the American firm QNOVO. You'll find their tech in all of Sony's 2016 phones, including the recently announced Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact.

 

According to a Forbes article, in 2014 QNOVO had already cracked fast charging using a modified battery, promising two hours of battery life after just five minutes of charging - significantly faster than most smartphones at the time. Since then, QNOVO have shifted to a wholly software-based solution, which means you could theoretically use their methods to save battery health and charge quickly on a range of compatible phones. However, the next generation of innovations should come from a combination of hardware and software changes, making this a trial run of sorts.

 

Since then, fast charging has entered the mainstream - you'd struggle to find a smartphone maker that doesn't use one rapid charging standard or another in their latest high-end models. That's super convenient, but it also means that users are putting their phones through more charge cycles. After 400 or 500 charge cycles, your phone will have noticeably less battery capacity than before, so long-term battery health becomes the next obvious area of improvement.

 

A boost to battery health

 

QNOVO reckon that they have improved long-term battery health substantially, promising around 800 charge cycles before your phone's battery loses 20% of its capacity. That could mean acceptable battery performance for a two year period, rather than a one year period without adaptive fast charging -- quite a difference.

 

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On these recent Sony Xperia phones, you should see that advantage. And I mean that somewhat literally, as Sony are taking the unusual step of actually showing you how your battery degrades over time, something that normally requires specialised programs or careful self-monitoring to calculate.

So how does QNOVO actually help? According to the company, adaptive charging is a pretty descriptive name -- your phone will "constantly monitor battery conditions, adjusting the charging currents to minimise damage and maximise battery life." So if your phone is already nearing 100%, there's no need to charge at full speed, so you can slow down and charge in a manner that'll cause less damage to your phone over time.

 

Another example given by Sony's page is that your phone will learn your charging habits. If you start using your phone at the same time each weekday, after a while your phone will only hit 100% right when you normally wake up, instead of hitting 100% as soon as possible and then staying there, a process which can harm your battery's long-term health.

 

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A nice inclusion for infrequent upgraders

 

If you're someone that doesn't upgrade their phone very often, it can feel like the smartphone world is out to get you. New phones with better performance and new features come out with such speed that you feel like you've been left behind. It doesn't help that your shiny new phone's battery will degrade quickly too, leaving you with a lemon after a year or two when a more frequent upgrader might have already jumped to a new model.

 

Sony's focus on long-term battery health should keep their phones usable for longer, and that could be just what you're looking for if you'd rather stick with a phone for two, three or more years. It'll also help resale value, if you do decide to switch to a shinier model. Nice one, Sony. 

 

Your thoughts?

 

What do you make of Sony's adaptive charging technology? Would it make you choose a Sony phone over a competitor without it? Let us know in the comments below.

17 Comments
oracle
We'll see if the technology is any good over time I guess. It's hard to get excited about it though.
guide

Sounds great. However, it doesn't sound that much different to the smart trickle type chargers that have been used in the motor industry for years.

 

Anything that preserves battery capacity has got to be good.

newcomer

A software-based solution to allow user control of charging % thresholds seems an obvious feature that phones should already have. Laptops such as ThinkPads have had this capability for years. In particular, not charging beyond 90 or 95% is known to significantly reduce battery wear, hence improve longevity (cyclability). Also electric cars have this (e.g. Tesla only charge to 100% if user selects "range mode"). I would be happy to set my phone to charge only to say 90% to impove battery longevity. I believe that phones will already charge the battery at lower rates as the battery gets fuller, this is a limitation of the underlying battery chemistry, but also, charging more slowly improves battery cyclability (some years ago I was involved in university research in lithium batteries and the effect of charging rate on capacity loss was significant, though we weren't looking at the same materials as lithium/graphite and cobalt or manganese oxides in current Li ion batteries). So if a setting allowed the user to control the charge rate that would also help (e.g. choose a lower rate when you know phone has whole night to charge).

 

So really I would like to think this could be a core feature of Android rather than being a custom feature of only a certain manufacturer.

counsellor
great read, think its most sustainable way to enhance battery products..
academic

It sounds good but I think I will wait and see.  

 

I've had sony (well sony ericsson) phones before (in the olden days before smart phones).  I was reasonably happy except at that time they had the weird connections for charging and audio and I decided I wouldn't buy another one like that.  Standard fittings for me please.

 

I may well consider Sony in future but the price would still be a major factor for me.

visionary
Great read. I agree with @rjwilmsi with regards to it being available to android as well rather than be for only one company
professor
surely if its this much of a problem just have a spare??









virtuoso

 That was really interesting

Until the tech industry invents a new type of battery, solutions like adaptive charging  are the way forward

professor
god thats a huge thread too much for me 😕