Next stage in mobile device battery tech: rapid charging

Mobile enthusiasts may argue about what is the best in class device, but when it comes to battery technology all agree that it isn't progressing fast enough. A couple of new products are touting faster charging to push it to the next level.

Mobile device enthusiasts may argue about what is the best in class device, but when it comes to battery technology all agree that it isn't progressing fast enough. While devices can run longer now on a battery charge than in the past, that's due to hardware power optimization, not improvements in battery technology. That may be about to change as two new products are using faster battery charging to extend mobile usage of devices.

The BlackBerry PlayBook is getting a less than outstanding reception since hitting the market recently, ranging from lukewarm to downright hostile reactions. Few folks sharing these reactions point out one area that is unique to the PlayBook, and that is the special charging port that works with two rapid charging accessories. While the conventional power brick that ships with the PlayBook plugs into the microUSB port on the bottom of the device, these rapid chargers plug into the unusual port to the right of the microUSB port.

According to RIM, these chargers work "up to 2 times faster" than the conventional power brick included with the PlayBook for recharging the battery. This is designed to allow the PlayBook, with already decent battery life, to take advantage of short periods of opportunity for charging that come along. That would allow travelers waiting for flights to double the amount of charging possible by using these special chargers working with the special port on the PlayBook.

Lenovo, the folks behind the ThinkPad notebook line, have been extending the useful battery life of its laptops through innovative hardware design. A new notebook, unconfirmed by Lenovo, has recently leaked to the web that promises rapid battery charging over two times faster than normal. The thin ThinkPad X1 is obviously taking on the MacBook Air given its thin and light form, and is reported to have special battery technology designed to charge "up to 2.5 times faster than previous ThinkPad batteries, charging 80% in 30 minutes".

ThinkPad notebooks are already pushing the limits for battery life, as reported in my recent review of the ThinkPad X220. This hardware optimization coupled with this new rapid charging technology for the batteries will usher in a new era in long battery life for mobile devices.

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