We’re back to brick phones again

From the Top of the Pile

I was on a bus tour the other day with a former vice-president of SaskPower when I saw something that struck my eye. He had in hand his cellphone – nothing unusual there. I think it was an iPhone in an Otterbox case, similar to what I carry. But then there was the cable attached to it. And attached to that cable was something that could only be described as a brick.

It was the largest charging battery I have yet seen.

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“Looks like you have a brick phone there,” I said. He acknowledged as much, and replied that he travels a lot, and needs to have his phone charged.

Now, if anyone knows anything about power, it is this man. And here he was, carrying a 25,000 milliamperes-hour battery that was massively larger than his phone.

It caught my eye because just a few weeks before, I had bought a similar monstrosity for our daughter just before she went on a band trip to New Orleans, except this one was only 15,000 mAh – yet it was the largest battery I had seen up until that point.

It kept her going on a bus trip for a week, powering both her iPad and old iPhone 4s. The battery positively dwarfed the iPhone.

A while ago I had picked up a whole smattering of these small charging batteries on clearance. About a half dozen looked like large lipsticks, with capacities around 2,000 mAh. Others were similar in size to the phone itself. But none were as large as the MOAB – the mother of all batteries – that I bought Katrina.

If you catch the reference, the largest conventional, non-nuclear bomb the United States Air Force has in its inventory is the MOAB – mother of all bombs. It is pushed out the ramp of a cargo plane because it’s too big to fit in a bomber. I think my description for this battery is apt.

In my middle age, not only am I contending with my profound rotundity, to the point where I am cursing at my Michelin-man appearance when I see video of myself, but I am now on occasion walking around with a charging cord hanging out of my pocket.

Not by choice, of course. Sometimes it just sorta hangs out there, like my gut over my waistline. It’s about as sexy as a fanny pack.

The cable is there because the battery on my iPhone 6s, which has been replaced twice, both times by Apple, simply does not last that long. The most recent replacement was last summer, less than nine months ago. Yet I find myself going from the bedroom charger to the office charger to the truck charger and back again, with an extra battery in my pocket for long days. I bought a couple three-packs of Lightning charging cables for this purpose (you know, the ones that only last a few months before failing?)

You see, Steve Jobs and then Tim Cook sold us a bill of goods. They continually praised their new phones for being ever thinner. While there has been a trend to make them bigger now in length and width, but only marginally thicker, they neglected to mention something with regards to thin phones – they have less battery capacity. While battery capability has been continually improving, and bigger phones have a bigger battery, we are using many more apps that are sucking them dry at a faster and faster rate.

This includes apps that are continually sending data, like location/GPS, or simply listening to you – Siri, Google and, as I wrote a few weeks ago, apparently Facebook. The net result is more and more people who use these pocket supercomputers are carrying extra, bulky and ugly batteries in addition to their phones.

Imagine if phones were a little bigger and actually could last a whole day on their own? Wouldn’t that be amazing?

This harkens back to the days when I carried a Motorola flip phone while the earth was still cooling. You didn’t go anywhere without an extra battery in your pocket. If you were really adept, you could pull off the maneuver where you switched batteries in mid-call without dropping the call. (You had only a few seconds to do that – you had to be a true mobile phone warrior to pull it off.)

I would suggest today’s situation is no different, except we’re not able to change the battery in our phones. We’re now carrying charge cords and supplementary batteries attached to them.

How ridiculous is it that we are now carrying ever-larger external batteries, connected by cable, instead of having phones that work a whole day? I think most people would be okay with their phones gaining a little weight and size, if it meant they didn’t need the auxiliary battery.

Besides, except for my parka, I don’t think I have a pocket big enough for the Mother of All Batteries.

Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at brian.zinchuk@sasktel.net.

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