Since the original iPhone was released in 2007, we have seen some incredible advances in smartphone processing and GPU power along with a wealth of features improvement (faster Wi-Fi and cellular speeds, larger and higher resolution displays). However, battery technology, for the most part, hasn’t kept up with the advances made in miniaturizing and producing higher-performing silicon.
Over the years, we’ve listened to plenty of promises about the next battery breakthrough just over the horizon, and today, Sony is the latest to string us along. Sony is currently an underdog as a battery supplier, commanding just 8 percent of the market for compact lithium-ion batteries. Its three largest competitors — Samsung (SDI), Panasonic and LG Chem — each command around 20 percent of the market. In order to help eat into the share of its competitors, Sony is developing a new type of battery chemistry that can boost runtimes by 40 percent compared to lithium-ion batteries of the same capacity.
Sony’s batteries use a sulfur compound instead of lithium compounds for the positive electrodes, allowing for much great energy density. If more compact batteries for even smaller devices is the ultimate goal for OEMs — we’re looking at you, Apple — Sony’s sulfur batteries can also be made 30 percent smaller than traditional lithium-ion cells while maintaining the same run times.
Sony has shown that the batteries can operate without dissolving the electrode over repeated charging cycles, but it is now working to ensure that the new battery chemistry is safe enough for commercial use — the last thing that Sony needs is another “batterygate” on its hands.
As is typically the case with these battery announcements, we’re going to be waiting a while before it hits consumer devices. Sony says that it hopes to have production-ready sulfur batteries in consumer devices by 2020. In the mean time, we can just rely on smartphones that recharge incredibly fast or purchase devices that have comically large lithium-ion batteries to power through the work week.