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Mobile Computing | Research

8 Billion Mobile Devices by 2019, but Can Batteries and Chargers Keep Pace?

The installed base of mobile devices is expected to hit 8 billion worldwide by 2019, according to a new forecast. But can the technologies that power these devices keep pace with this growth?

According to ABI Research, which produces market reports and forecasts for the technology sector, there are, at present, about 10 "untethered," rechargeable (i.e., mobile) devices per house in "advanced markets." And this figure is only going to increase. Despite that, both power storage and charging technologies aren't keeping pace at all.

"The opportunity is enormous.... The growth in wearables driven by the likes of Samsung and now Apple will increase this number further, along with the Internet of Things, and even electric cars. Battery technology is holding these innovative growth industries back and the rate of change, in what is admittedly a huge supply chain, is a concern," according to Nick Spencer, senior practice director at ABI Research.

There are, however, some recent developments in power storage technology that might help alleviate the problem.

"Battery technology has not kept pace with hardware and usage growth, still relying on Lithium and graphite batteries and one-to-one wired charging solutions (typically Micro-USB chargers)," according to ABI. "This may be about to change with new battery technology in the form of silicon anode batteries already in production, from companies like Amprius and Leyden Energy, and germanium and pure lithium variants experiencing recent breakthroughs in their stability becoming a possibility in the near future."

Silicon anode, germanium and pure lithium battery technologies allow for greater storage capacity in lithium-ion batteries compared with graphite, which is widely used in today's rechargeable batteries.

"Short battery life remains the biggest irritation to smartphone users and is a clear opportunity for handset vendors and carriers to improve the user experience by adopting new, longer-lasting battery technologies. Additionally, the growth in size-constrained wearable devices makes the problem even more acute," Spencer said.

The way forward for charging technologies seems a bit more foggy at tis time, though the potential exists for breaking through the barrier of one device-one charging cable. "The battery charging market beyond wired Micro-USB chargers is also ripe for change with multi-device inductive charging mats reducing in price and integrating into public environments like cafes and airports; a bit like WiFi. More subtle forms of charging may also be made possible like ambient radio frequency energy harvesting and even dedicated beamed radio frequency energy routed to your device."

More can be found in ABI's Wearables and Smart Accessories Market Research.

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 25-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).

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